Called Project Shellter, MakerBot joined forces with TeamTeamUSA to create environmentally-friendly 3D shells realistic enough for the hermit crabs to adopt as their homes. There is actually a shortage of natural shells in the wild, causing a housing shortage for the marine animals and leading to large amounts of them dying off. Project Shellterís goal is to create a printing material that will degrade in the ocean as well as being able to maintain certain characteristics to ensure that the crabs will adopt the artificial replicas. This is easier said than done, apparently.
Working with Dr. Katherine Bulinski, a biological researcher that has done extensive studies of the crustacean in question, the group has laid out a set of design guidelines to ensure the experiment is a success. First, itís very important that the size and shape of the shell be in line with with those found in the wild. They can be neither too small (the crab wonít fit) or too big (the crab wonít feel secure), and they must be light weight since the future tenants of the dwellings expend energy to move them around. This takes some serious 3D modeling, which the MakerBot community has tackled en force, resulting in the video you see above.
(Project Shellter video)
In his 1992 novel A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge writes about aliens helping sea creatures by making them little vehicles:
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out." Someone had put them on mobile platforms, the skrodes. With wheels they could move along the seashores, could reach and manipulate with their fronds and tendrils.
(Read more about the skrodes)
Via Geek. Thanks to Yossi Preminger for writing in with this story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/28/2012)