From adhesives that mimic the feet of geckos to swimsuits modelled on shark skin, biologically inspired design has taken off in recent times. Copying nature’s ideas allows people to harness the power of evolution to come up with clever products. Now a group of researchers has taken this idea a step further by using an entire living organism—a slime mould—to solve a complex problem. In this case, the challenge was to design an efficient rail network for the city of Tokyo and its outlying towns.

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