News / Science & Technology

Insect Boasts 'Mechanical Gears'

A juvenile Issus is seen on a leaf. (Cambridge University)A juvenile Issus is seen on a leaf. (Cambridge University)
x
A juvenile Issus is seen on a leaf. (Cambridge University)
A juvenile Issus is seen on a leaf. (Cambridge University)

Related Articles

Beetles, Housefly Larvae Show Great Potential for Animal Feed Sector

French start-up company Ynsect identifies cheap, nourishing, locally produced alternative to soybeans as crucial protein source
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
If you think humans invented the kind of gears you find in an automobile transmission, think again.

Scientists have discovered that the humble Issus, a plant hopping insect the size of a flea, has “hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing ‘teeth’ that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronize the animal’s legs when it launches into a jump.”

It’s being called the “first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure,” according to scientists at the University of Cambridge in England where the discovery was made.

"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 co-author Gregory Sutton, now at 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.” 

The gears of the Issus insect are seen under a microscope. (Cambridge University)The gears of the Issus insect are seen under a microscope. (Cambridge University)
x
The gears of the Issus insect are seen under a microscope. (Cambridge University)
The gears of the Issus insect are seen under a microscope. (Cambridge University)
The gears resemble what you’d find on a bicycle or in every automobile transmission, with each gear tooth having a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip, which is a shock absorbing feature to keep the teeth from shearing off.

On the Issus, an insect common in European gardens, the opposing hind legs lock together like gears in a car, so that the legs move almost simultaneously--within one millionth of a second of each other.

Researchers said the design is critical for the powerful jumps the insect uses as its primary mode of transport.

The jumps are powerful indeed. The Issus accelerates to five meters per second within milliseconds and endures up to 700 g-forces, much more than the human body can withstand.

“This precise synchronization would be impossible to achieve through a nervous system, as neural impulses would take far too long for the extraordinarily tight coordination required,” said lead author Malcolm Burrows, a professor at Cambridge’s Department of Zoology. “By developing mechanical gears, the Issus can just send nerve signals to its muscles to produce roughly the same amount of force - then if one leg starts to propel the jump the gears will interlock, creating absolute synchronicity.”
Burrows added that the in the case of the Issus, the “skeleton is used to solve a complex problem that the brain and nervous system can’t.”

The gears are only found in the juvenile Issus, and scientists still don’t know why the hind-leg gears are lost in adulthood.

The findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Science

Here's a video on the discovery, which shows the insect jumping:

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Brad from: Seattle
September 16, 2013 2:21 AM
"These gears are not designed; they are evolved - representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronization in the animal world.”
How can you be so sure? How can you discredit design? How do you know the origin? It's like finding an abandoned Ford somewhere in the woods and saying, "it was not designed; it evolved." Biased nonsense that has no scientific basis.


by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakameguro, TKO
September 13, 2013 8:46 PM
Using rotation mechanism is one of the most significant innovation of humans. They are "Wheels for cars", "Propellers for air planes" and "Screw Propellers for ships".

No other animals use rotation for thier transportation.

Thanks for that innovation, we are able to transport further and faster than other animals.
But that is also the cause of world wide invation by humans.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid