A species of insect known as Issus coleoptratus has mechanical gears to power its strong jumping legs, say scientists from Cambridge University. This is the first time such hind-leg joints with curved, opposing and intermeshing teeth, has been noted in nature, reported UPI on Thursday, Sept. 12. The cog-like gears rotate to synchronize the animal's legs when it launches into a jump, the same way human-engineered mechanical gears would work.
The insects, a kind of plant-leaping grasshopper, is found all across Europe. “We usually think of gears as something that we see in human designed machinery, but we've found that that is only because we didn't look hard enough,” said one of the co-authors of the study, Gregory Sutton, of the University of Bristol. “These gears are not designed; they are evolved -- representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronization in the animal world.”
Actually, this is the first time such a phenomenon has been found in nature. The gears in the Issus hind-leg look and function very much like the gears found inside car transmissions and on bicycles, the scientists report. They offer “absolute synchronicity in the jumps,” researchers agreed. This level of precision would be impossible to achieve through an ordinary insect nervous system.
This sudden discovery, of something that has been under the noses of British scientists for generations, will rock biological thinking. What else is out there in the grass, that no one has yet noticed?