In Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, author Steven Strogatz writes that several years ago, people were outraged that the federal government was spending money to study fireflies. News stories attacked this “frivolous” spending, as did many legislators. However, doctors have borrowed the firefly’s light-emitting enzyme, Luciferase, to accelerate the testing of drugs against resistant strains of tuberculosis. It will save lives. Strogatz also notes that studying fireflies and synchronicity has given us laser eye surgery, CD players, checkout scanners, and other laser applications.
Recently, I read that someone is studying the shape of whale fins and using it to make wind turbine blades more efficient. It is amazing what can come from studying nature and animals.