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  1. The discipline called biomimetics attempts to create synthetic systems that model the behavior and functions of biological systems. At a very basic level, this approach incorporates a philosophy grounded in modeling either the behavior or properties of organic systems based on inferences of structure–function relationships. This approach has achieved extraordinary scientific accomplishments, both in fabricating new materials and structures. However, it is also prone to misstep because (1) many organic structures are multifunctional that have reconciled conflicting individual functional demands (rather than maximize the performance of any one task) over evolutionary time, and (2) some structures are ancillary or entirely superfluous to the functions their associated systems perform. The important point is that we must typically infer function from structure, and that is not always easy to do even when behavioral characteristics are available (e.g., the delivery of venom by the fangs of a snake, or cytoplasmic toxins by the leaf hairs of the stinging nettle). Here, we discuss both of these potential pitfalls by comparing and contrasting how engineered and organic systems are operationally analyzed. We also address the challenges that emerge when an organic system is modeled and suggest a few methods to evaluate the validity of modelsmore »in general.« less