Dutch artist Theo Jansen has been building creatures for over 20 years, though i only recently discovered his work. If you listen to him talk about his work, (which you can find here) you'll find that his interest is in creating a new life forms, and in the process finding out how evolution might have worked to result in you and i putting on fireman underpants this morning.
His work is truly beautiful and inspiring, and amazing. i can't imagine the ingenuity required to figure out the hinges he's come up with to simulate the leg movement of his strandbeests. Among the interesting facets of his creatures is their lack of body (aside from the larger creature above, which he "clothed"); they are almost all bones or, as he would probably insist, muscle, and in this sense are almost completely devoted to movement, or registering movement (wind). They don't really have a brain, though he has simulated decision making with his "liar" device that you have to watch the video link for to understand, and so seem to have more in common with insects than animals, though i can think of similarities to jellyfish as well, in the way they are dependent on their element for movement. They reminded me of those freaky silverfish you find in the basement and sometimes your bathtub (screaming sound), and both creatures' affinity to water reinforces this. In both there is ambivalence to front and back, though the silverfish seems to know which way to go despite each end looking similar.
i appreciate that Mr. Jansen has located his creatures on the beach, where it reconciles his new life forms with the origin of land life as we understand it, primitive organisms that made their way from the sea to the land, though his strandbeests seem to be more enjoying themselves than searching for their first land meal.
Ferris Jabr recently wrote an interesting article in the New York Times on the nature of life, where he references Mr Jansen's strandbeests.