Evolution Turned A Part Of This Insect Into A Machine

Picture: Wikipedia

Most humans would struggle to stay conscious at 6Gs, which is roughly twice the strain astronauts endure during liftoff.

Yet one amazing insect can travel at 400Gs – and does so after propelling itself by using tiny biological gears.

It’s called an issus, and a report by a couple of UK researchers last week unveiled the first recorded instance of an animal sporting working mechanical gears.

By bending its body, the issus causes the two gears at the top of its legs to engage.

When it releases them, the hopper – all 2.5mm of it – screams off into the sky at nearly 14km/h.

Picture: Malcolm Burrows

The issus lives mainly on European climbing invy, and while the team can’t pinpoint exactly why it has developed the gears, it’s most likely an evasion mechanism.

“There’s been enormous evolutionary pressure to become faster and faster, and jump further and further away,” lead author and zoologist Malcolm Burrows told Popular Mechanics.

And the mechanics of the leap are amazing. This from Popular Mechanics:

By the time the insect has sent a signal from its legs to its brain and back again, roughly 5 or 6 milliseconds, the launch has long since happened. Instead, the gears, which engage before the jump, let the issus lock its legs together — synchronizing their movements to a precision of 1/300,000 of a second.

Bizarrely, the issus moults and grows new, stronger gears about a six times during its life cycle… except for its final moult.

Then it jumps like any regular insect, pressing its legs together to ensure they’re coordinated, and engaging its brain and nervous sytem to complete the takeoff.

Picture: MakeAGif

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