This planthopper can jump fast, far, and repeatedly. How does it manage to jump so well? Biologists decided to find out — and they realized that this insect has literal interlocking gears in its legs.

There are over 12,000 species of planthopper in the world. The planthopper is a plant-eating bug that can be found in many different shapes, inhabiting all kinds of environments. Some of them can be fantastically beautiful and strange, so the plain gray-brown Issus coleoptratus wasn’t considered anything to write home about. Like many other species it mostly walked very slowly across plants, eating as it went. When startled, it could hop long distances and do so very quickly. Scientists took a look at how the insect managed to jump so easily.

What they found was literally a set of gears. The planthopper’s back two legs had a set of teeth that could interlock and let the legs move synchronously. These gears allowed I. coleoptratus to mechanically coordinate a hop, faster than an insect relying on nerve impulses could. So far, it’s the only animal in the world known to have this adaptation.

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[Source: New Scientist]

Image: Fritz Geller-Grimm