Scientists in the UK have just shared the news of a completely awesome discovery: the first mechanical gear ever found inside a living creature. The creature in question is an adolescent insect known as Issus coleoptratus. Issus is a genus of ‘planthoppers’ and they’re one of the fastest accelerators in the animal kingdom.
"Jumping is one of the most rapid and powerful things an animal can do," says Malcolm Burrows, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge and the lead author of the paper, "and that leads to all sorts of crazy specializations."
And today, thanks to Malcolm Burrows and his team, we’ve learned how the mighty Issus coleoptratus manages to be so fast:
"With two diminutive legs locked into a leap-ready position, the tiny jumper bends its body taut like an archer drawing a bow. At the top of its legs, a minuscule pair of gears engage—their strange, shark-fin teeth interlocking cleanly like a zipper. And then, faster than you can blink, think, or see with the naked eye, the entire thing is gone. In 2 milliseconds it has bulleted skyward, accelerating at nearly 400 g’s—a rate more than 20 times what a human body can withstand. At top speed the jumper breaks 8 mph—quite a feat considering its body is less than one-tenth of an inch long."
Head over to Popular Mechanics to learn more about this awesome scientific discovery.
Scanning electron micrograph image of the gears via Malcolm Burrows.
Gifs via Popular Mechanics.