Question Sheet: How a Gecko Defies Gravity


Before reading:

  1. What kind of animal is a gecko?
  2. If you could walk on ceilings, what sorts of places would you want to visit?

During reading:

  1. What is a possible benefit of the research being done on how geckos stick to surfaces?
  2. How was it proved that geckos do not produce a gummy substance in order to walk upside-down?
  3. What are setae? Why are they so important for geckos?
  4. If setae are not sticky by themselves, how do geckos stick to surfaces?
  5. What could “gecko-inspired” tape be used for?
  6. Of all the animals with setae, why have scientists focused on geckos?
  7.  Which one has smaller setae: a beetle or a gecko? Why?

After reading:

  1. To understand how geckos stick, Kellar Autumn claims that “the secret is

    mechanical.” What discovery led him to believe this?

  2.  What qualities do setae have that would make them excellent tools to perform



  1. Based on the explanation in the article, try to draw what a group of setae would look like under a microscope. Then, write a description of how they are moved to allow animals to stick to or remove themselves from surfaces.
  2. You’ve read about gecko-inspired tape and other possible innovations that studying geckos might produce. What are some other uses that you can imagine? Make a list of all of the things you see yourself doing if you had the skills of a gecko.
  3. You have to give a report to your class on the current status of gecko research. Write a brief paper describing the advances that have been made, including what new information scientists have discovered, as well as what they are still trying to learn.


A beetle’s hairs are a tenth of the width of a human hair, and a gecko’s hairs are one-fiftieth. Suppose a typical human hair is 50 micrometers in diameter. How wide is a beetle’s hair? A gecko’s hair?