Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Fast swimming with fake shark skin

A material that mimics shark skin enables a swimming robot to move quickly through the water by improving hydrodynamics.

Li Wen, James Weaver and George Lauder at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, used three-dimensional printing to embed thousands of rigid tooth-like scales on a flexible membrane (pictured), based on the skin structure of the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus). The authors compared the synthetic shark skin to a smooth control model in a robot swim test and found that the experimental skin moved 6.6% faster.

The skin eases swimming both by reducing drag and by generating vortices that boost thrust, the authors suggest.

Credit: James Weaver/Li Wen/George Lauder

J. Exp. Biol. 217, 1656–1666 (2014)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fast swimming with fake shark skin. Nature 509, 402 (2014).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing