Up-Cycle like a NudibranchPosted: September 24, 2011
The humble nudibranch, or sea slug, could be an incredible inspiration for how designers view recycling and up-cycling, and possibly even concepts around regenerative design. It’s taken me a little while, since Tim first told me this story, but here goes my first real attempt to put my money where my mouth is around the concept of visual communication in biomimicry. Looking forward to any feedback and ideas…
Recycling, even up-cycling tends to carry connotations for designers of materials being broken down to as close to their raw form as possible, and then reassembled in a new desired form. In reality organisms co-opt entire complex components like nematocyst cells. It is hard to imagine “assemblies” of components that can be completely re-used in different contexts because the manufactured habitat is very rarely standardized. In fact standardization is an evil concept for most designers, and yet is the reason why I can go to a local hardware store, pick up some components and fix the plumbing in my bathroom.
Nature is standardized at it’s very core, using similar nucleic acids, amino acids, and of course the cross platform coding of DNA. There is an opportunity for design to redefine the concept of standardization to facilitate up-cycling and co-opting that extends the life of products, but perhaps even more importantly may encourage more iterative evolution to “stuff”. Please read my earlier exploration on this topic if curious.
Just to finish, I focused on the Nudibranchs that absorb nematocysts, but there are others that co-opt photosynthesizing zooxanthellae to provide energy to the organism. Just the tip of the ice burg.
Many thanks to Tim for the original story of the nudibranch, and for feedback on the first draft… hopefully the above diagrams are close to accurate! Am looking forward to finding out what I missed.
I’ve a list below of the resources that I used in assembling the above story, for anyone who wants to dive in deeper.
Nudibranch Science – great article that got things going, excellent overview of nudibranch scientific discoveries
Overview of a Nematocyst – I almost got distracted deep diving into the nematocyst cell… they are absolutely fascinating.
Sea Anemone Cross Sections – incredible images highlighting the complexity of the organism. Want to know more…
Sea Anemone Tentacle Cross Sections – these images show the locations of the nematocysts and the muscle structure that allows them to be ejected into predators or prey.
Diagrams of Anemone Nematocysts – incredible detail into these cells, totally warrant further exploration.
General Nudibranch Information – wikipedia never fails