Scientists in the U.K. have discovered something completely unique about the tiny Issus Nymph. For the first time scientists have documented “gears” in a living organism being used as tool. The Issus uses the gears to give it the ability to jump, in the blink of an eye, accelerating to speeds faster than 8 mph.
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.
The use of the gears to propel itself makes the Issus one of the fastest accelerating creatures in the animal kingdom. The Issus likely developed the gears, in lieu of a nervous system, to make sure that the jump was even and the little bug didn’t spiral out of control.
What’s even more amazing is that the gears only appear in adolescent Issus’. Through adolescence the creatures go through a number of molting processes and each time the gears are replaced with the new exoskeleton. That is right up until the last molt before adulthood. Then the gears mysteriously disappear. Scientists still have no idea why this happens. The big theory is that if the gears were to malfunction as an adult, when there is no more molting, the Issus would be doomed so, rather than risk it, they evolved to lose them after adulthood.
It’s likely the most fascinating thing you’ll read about an insect all day.