Spittle bug -a high jump machine

These little true bugs do not look like they hold a world record, but under that body is hidden the best cercopis_sanguinolenta_spittlejumping legs in the world. The spittle bugs jump higher than any other creature known on the planet. When one compares its body length to the distance jumped it has beaten out its cousin the flea.

To earn nature’s high jump champ crown, the tiny insects lept close to 28 inches equivalent to 100 spittle bug body lengths. If man could jump 100 times his height the human jumper would be able to bound over many of US’s tallest buildings.

This catapult-like mechanism the spittle bug uses comes from the slow contraction of its long jumping muscles. This slow contraction is stored in an “elastic internal structure, then released in less than a millisecond to power the explosive extension of the bug’s hind legs.

‘They jump like little bullets,” says Steve Shaw, a professor with the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University. It’s a last ditch escape response, otherwise the bug becomes bird food.’

Shaw and Malcolm Burrows, current head of the Zoology Department at the University of Cambridge, spent August afternoons sweeping the long grasses with nets at York Redoubt, the 18th century military fort overlooking Halifax Harbour. They returned to Dalhousie to analyze the specimens they collected”.

Under the microscope what makes them high jump so high?

When viewed under the microscope, one can see a stretchy protein this protein, called resilin in the long jumping muscles in the hind legs,  is stiff enough when bent to absorb all the muscle energy, retaining the tension that will power the jump.
Spittlebug Beats Flea to Become High Jump Champ – Jennifer Viegas  Discovery.com  November 14, 2008


image courtesy of Wikipedia.com


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