Evolution Of The Strandbeest
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 01 May 2022

Described by their creator Theo Jansen as "artificial life" strandbeesten, literally "beach animals" are built from flexible plastic tube and adhesive tape, but resemble walking animals - albeit ones with many legs. Seen in action it is hard to believe there is no "mind" or "intelligence", artificial  or otherwise, and certainly no electronics involved.


The first time you see (and hear) a Strandbeest in its own environment - a windswept sandy beach in the Netherlands, you cannot help but be amazed. And the next one you see is likely to even more remarkable.

The latest video from Theo Hansen introduces several new models and their latest evolutionary development - flight.


If this is your first encounter with strandbeesten then this TEDTalk by Theo Jansen from 2007 serves as a good introduction.


Already by the time of the TEDTalk Jansen, who studied physics before beginning his artistic career, had devoted sixteen years to the Strandbeest project and it continues to be an evolutionary process almost sixteen years later. His creatures start out as computer simulations which compete with one another. The ones that "win" are then built as 3D models. According to an account on artfutura.org:

Those moving around more efficiently will donate their "DNA" (length and disposition of the tubes forming their movable parts) to the following Standbeest generations. Through this process of hybridization and Darwinian evolution, creatures become more and more capable of living in their environment, and can even take decisions to guarantee their survival. The "Animaris Sabulosa", for instance, buries its nose in the sand to anchor itself when detecting the wind is too strong to be still standing.

Over the years Jansen has work on successive generations of beach creatures and the Evolution page of his website, Strandbeest.com list twelve periods, each period characterized by further developments. The latest video is from Volantum when the strandbeests:

" learned how to defy sandstorms by taking off a little".

If you want to see more - and who wouldn't given the combination of sea, wind and fantastic creations? Then this video from 2017 has more of the caterpillar-like creatures from the Bruchum period. 

These are creatures that started as algorithms and took shape via computer simulation but do not require engines, sensors or any other type of advanced technology in order to walk, relying instead on wind and wet sand as the force and counterforce required for locomotion, with flight being the latest development in their evolution.

More Information


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 May 2022 )