Technologies Inspired by Sharks

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Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps models a "Fastskin" suit designed by Speedo. AP Photo/Kathy Willens
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

4. Streamlined Swimsuits

For the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, swimmers sported Speedo's new "Fastskin" suit, inspired by shark skin. The fabric contained tiny V-shaped ridges resembling dermal denticles, microscopic structures that decrease drag and turbulence around a shark's body. In 2004, Speedo improved on the design with Fastskin FSII by positioning seams and fabrics in places to maximize the flow of water over a swimmer's body.

In the 2008 Beijing Games, swimmers wearing Speedo's LZR suits (see photo) accounted for 23 of the 25 broken world records.

However, in 2009, the world governing body for swimming, the Federation Internationale de Natation or FINA, changed the rules for competition-grade swimsuits, marking the end of shark-inspired suits. The organization installed several restrictions on the kind of fabric that could be used as well as how much of the body could be covered in the suit. It's back to human power for fish wannabes.

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