Sept. 13 - Video showing the first known example of a gear mechanism in nature has been released by British scientists. Their research shows that the common garden insect, Issus, has hind-leg joints containing cog-like strips that intermesh when moving, allowing it to leap with power and precision. Jim Drury has more.
The juvenile Issus can leap many times its own body length, using machine-like gears, a mechanism never before observed in nature. The nymph's hind-leg joints have cog-like strips of opposing 'teeth' that intermesh, rotating to synchronise its legs when jumping. These gears resemble those found in bicycles and car gear-boxes, but are only found in Issus's juvenile stages. Co-authors, Malcolm Burrows and Gregory Sutton, of Cambridge and Bristol universities, say the gears weren't spotted before because scientists weren't looking. The plant-hopping Issus is common in European gardens, but these findings are likely to increase its popularity among scientists and mechanical engineers as well.