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.
When you’re the size of a human, you worry about lions and tigers and bears. But if you’re …
An amateur fossil hunter has unearthed a 7ft skeleton of a carnivorous marine reptile on a beach in south Wales.
European regulators have recommended approval of the first medicine containing stem cells to treat a rare condition caused by burns to the eye.
Ecologists say birds could hear the oncoming storm from over 100 miles away
Marine scientists plumbing the deepest part of the ocean sent microphones and collection probes baited with chicken to the bottom of a trench near Guam. Now they watch, wait ... and listen.
Lead author of two retracted papers resigns her position after failing to reproduce new approach to generating stem cells
The winners of the 2014 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition capture a rat brain, the mouthparts of a vampire moth and other small wonders
By analysing brain activity linked to hand and arm movements, a team has created a robotic arm that a paralysed woman can control with her thoughts
Adding laser tips to ordinary shoes can improve the stride and pace of people with Parkinson's disease
Technique could someday help repair injuries