Climbing assisted by adhesive subdigital pads in gekkotan lizards has been the subject of intrigue and study for centuries. Many hypotheses have been advanced to explain the mechanism of adhesion, and recently this phenomenon has been investigated at the level of individual setae. The ability to isolate, manipulate and record adhesive forces from individual setae has provided new insights, not only into the mechanism of attachment, but also into the physical orientation of these structures necessary to establish attachment, maximize adhesive force, and effect subsequent release. This, in turn, has enabled a reassessment of the overall morphology and mode of operation of the adhesive system. Digital hyperextension has often been noted as a behavioral characteristic associated with the deployment of the gekkotan adhesive system—this is now understandable in the context of setal attachment and release kinematics, and in the context of the evolution of this pattern of digital movement from the primitive pattern of saurian digital kinematics. The perpendicular and parallel preloads associated with setal attachment are now reconcilable with other morphological aspects of the gekkotan adhesive system—the lateral digital tendon complex and the vascular sinus network, respectively. Future investigations of the integrated adhesive system will help to further elucidate the interdependence of its structural and functional components.
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Vol. 42 • No. 6