Pygmy mole crickets are known to be prodigious jumpers on land. Now, researchers reporting in the December 4th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, have found that the tiny insects have found an ingenious method to jump from the water, too. Their secret is a series of spring-loaded, oar-like paddles on their back legs.
"Pygmy mole crickets have solved the most difficult task of jumping from the surface of water," says Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge. "For small insects, water can be a deadly, sticky trap: water grabs and holds an insect, offering it as an appetizing snack for an alert fish. Pygmy mole crickets turn the stickiness of water to their advantage and use this property to enable jumping."
Burrows came across this unique cricket behavior one day while sitting by the side of a pond in South Africa eating his lunch. He heard some odd noises coming from the direction of the pond and, after getting a closer look, discovered some insects jumping from the water toward the bank. He did what any good scientist would do: he caught a few and took them back to the lab, where he and colleague Gregory Sutton could catch their talents on high-speed film.
That's when he discovered the insect's oar-like paddles on its legs, which are spring loaded with a protein called resilin that Burrows says is "the perfect elastic." As those oars penetrate the water, they fan out. The crickets then "grab" a ball of water, sending it downward as their bodies soar in the opposite direction and to safety.
This curious bug strategy might even have some practical use.
"If we want to make small robotic vehicles that move under water, this is how we would have to design propellers or oars," Burrows says. "We would also have to use a material as good as resilin to impart elasticity, restore shape, and reduce drag."
"This is an animal that has to do many things with its legs: dig burrows in the ground, jump rapidly to escape predators on land, and get itself out of water before it is eaten or drowns. It has solved a hugely difficult problem with a multifunctional mechanism that can propel jumps on land and water."
Burrows et al.: "Pygmy mole crickets jump from water."
Cell Press: http://www.cellpress.com
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Similarities in the brain responses of small groups of people may predict the popularity of a product within the wider population
The air in airplanes is way fresher than you may think, and it’s constantly being scrubbed by high quality filters.
For billions of years, single-celled creatures had the planet to themselves, floating through the oceans in solitary bliss. Some microorganisms attempted multicellular arrangements, forming small sheets or filaments of cells. But these ventures hit dead ends. The single cell ruled the earth.
Goalkeepers in penalty shoot-outs make a predictable error that could influence the outcome of the game according to new research.
Translucent lab animals could be used for biological and medical research
An exciting new study lays out in detail how our fine feathered friends evolved from the same ancestors as the T. Rex and velociraptors over the course of millions of years, and how they managed to avoid the same doomed fate as their dinosaur cousins
Researchers are trying to figure out how "jackass" penguins—nicknamed for their braying vocalizations—communicate
The rind of good cheese is a thriving microbial community. A single gram—a tiny crumb—contains 10 billion microbial cells, a mix of bacteria and fungi that contribute delicious and sometimes funky flavors.
The world's largest amphipod has been caught on film for the first time – and even if you love shrimp, this critter may give you nightmares
If someone were to create an award for "mother of the year" in the animal kingdom, a remarkably dedicated eight-limbed mom from the dark and frigid depths of the Pacific Ocean might be a strong contender.