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.
Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife
Scientists identify the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot create images in their head
The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different types of fungi and bacteria, a study suggests.
A mosquito can bear up to 23 times its total body weight on each leg, which is crucial for landing on water – the insect's secret is way it stands
Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions
Most people think of bacteria as germs, signs of filth, or unwanted bringers of disease. Slowly, that view …
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted
The blind, hairless babies born recently at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are completely dependent on their mothers—who can sometimes accidentally crush them.
The poop-hoarding insects have an amazingly advanced internal GPS that allows them to navigate by day or night.