Scientists using an electron microscope and high-speed cameras have discovered that Mother Nature apparently invented gears long before humans did, and included them on the legs of teensy planthopper insects to help them jump straight. Tell you what, Mother Nature -- you don't take the credit for inventing gears and I won't chop down this tree. "No deal." But you're Mother Nature! "And that's a telephone pole."
The reason for the gearing, they say, is coordination: To jump, both of the insect's hind legs must push forward at the exact same time. Because they both swing laterally, if one were extended a fraction of a second earlier than the other, it'd push the insect off course to the right or left, instead of jumping straight forward.
The gearing is an elegant solution. The researchers' high-speed videos showed that the creatures, who jump at speeds as high as 8.7 miles per hour, cocked their back legs in a jumping position, then pushed forward, with each moving within 30 microseconds (that's 30 millionths of a second) of the other.
"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," Sutton said. "These gears are not designed; they are evolved--representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronisation in the animal world."
Amazing, right? These lil buggers EVOLVED gears. That's crazy to think about. Also, what it would be like to live in space. For me, probably a constant panic attack. I DON'T LIKE THIS, I WANT TO GO BACK TO EARTH, I CAN BARELY TURN AROUND IN THIS CAPSULE, I'M FEELING CLAUSTROPHOBIC, THIS IS NOT OKAY. "Please sir, calm down." *banging head on control panel* THIS IS NOTHING LIKE F***ING STAR TREK.
Hit the jump for an animated GIF of the gears in action.
Thanks to Paulevalence and CalebMakesLessThanAlex, who agree it's only a matter of time before we discover Mother Nature also invented astronaut ice cream.