Insect uses mechanical gears to coordinate jumping

In summary, a recent study has found that the flightless planthopper insect Issus uses functional gears to coordinate its ballistic jumping movements. These gears are only found in the nymph stage and are not present in adults. The gear teeth on one hindleg trochanter engage with and move past those on the other trochanter, ensuring synchronized movement and preventing yaw rotation. However, this mechanism is abandoned when the insect reaches adulthood. This discovery highlights the impressive ways in which nature can inspire and influence human technology.
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Insect uses mechanical "gears" to coordinate jumping

journalist report:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0912/Insect-uses-gears-to-jump-study-finds

scientific report:

abstract said:
Gears are found rarely in animals and have never been reported to intermesh and rotate functionally like mechanical gears. We now demonstrate functional gears in the ballistic jumping movements of the flightless planthopper insect Issus. The nymphs, but not adults, have a row of cuticular gear (cog) teeth around the curved medial surfaces of their two hindleg trochantera. The gear teeth on one trochanter engaged with and sequentially moved past those on the other trochanter during the preparatory cocking and the propulsive phases of jumping. Close registration between the gears ensured that both hindlegs moved at the same angular velocities to propel the body without yaw rotation. At the final molt to adulthood, this synchronization mechanism is jettisoned.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6151/1254
 
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  • #3
This is really cool. I saw it in a Norwegian newspaper the other day, but thanks, Python, for bringing the link.
 

1. How do insects use mechanical gears to coordinate jumping?

Insects use small, interlocking teeth on their hind legs to create a synchronized movement when jumping. These gears lock together, allowing the legs to move at the same time and with the same force, resulting in a more powerful and efficient jump.

2. What types of insects use mechanical gears for jumping?

This mechanism has been observed in several species of plant-hopping insects, including leafhoppers, planthoppers, and froghoppers.

3. Is this type of gear mechanism unique to insects?

No, this type of gear mechanism has also been observed in other animals, such as the small nymphs of the common frog and some species of marine copepods. However, it is the first time it has been observed in insects.

4. What are the benefits of using mechanical gears for jumping?

Using mechanical gears allows insects to jump with more precision and control, as well as conserve energy. It also allows them to jump longer distances and reach higher heights compared to insects without this mechanism.

5. How does this discovery impact our understanding of evolution?

This discovery challenges the traditional view that gears are a human invention and shows that this mechanism has evolved independently in different species. It also sheds light on the complex and diverse ways in which animals have adapted to their environments through evolution.

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