Froghoppers, also known as spittlebugs, are the champion insect jumpers, capable of reaching heights of 700 mm - more than 100 times their own body length. Research published today in the open access journal BMC Biology reveals that they achieve their prowess by flexing bow-like structures between their hind legs and wings and releasing the energy in one giant leap in a catapult-like action.
Froghoppers are well distributed around the world. Images of the insects flexing and jumping are described in the research carried out by Malcolm Burrows from the University of Cambridge and his colleagues. Burrows' research focused on determining how the energy generated by the insects' muscles is stored before powering a jump. He said, "A froghopper stores energy by bending a paired bow-shaped part of its internal skeleton called a 'pleural arch' which is a composite structure made of layers of hard cuticle and a rubbery protein called resilin. When the froghopper contracts its muscles to jump, these arches flex like a composite archery bow, and then on recoil catapult it forwards with a force that can be over 400 times its body mass".
There are further parallels with the jumping mechanisms of froghoppers and the design of composite bows used in archery. The composite of a hard and an elastic material means that the skeleton of a froghopper, or an archery bow, can resist damage even if they are bent for a long time. Froghoppers are observed to hold the pleural arch in a bent 'ready position', ready to jump at a moment's notice, and to be able to jump repeatedly without damaging the body.
Still more advantages of using composite structures when storing large amounts of energy are seen when considering the development of these storage structures. Froghopper nymphs live in a protective white foam, the familiar cuckoo spit that appears on plants in spring. These nymphs have no resilin in their pleural arches and don't jump until they complete the lifecycle and develop into adult Froghoppers.
Notes to Editors
1. Resilin and cuticle form a composite structure for energy storage in jumping by froghopper insects
Malcolm Burrows, Steve R. Shaw and Gregory P. Sutton
BMC Biology (in press)
During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1499800682203586_article.pdf?random=638539
After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.
Article citation and URL available on request at firstname.lastname@example.org on the day of publication
2. Video footage and images of the froghoppers:
Video (wmv): http://www.biomedcentral.com/download/pr/Froghopper_Jump.wmv
Video (mov): http://www.biomedcentral.com/download/pr/Froghopper_Jump.mov
Image 1: http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/Adult_Froghopper.jpg
Image 2: http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/Nymph_Froghopper.jpg
Image 3: http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/Composite_bow.jpg
3. BMC Biology - the flagship biology journal of the BMC series – publishes open access research and methodology articles of special importance and broad interest in any area of biology and biomedical sciences. BMC Biology (ISSN 1741-7007) is covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Zoological Record, Thomson Scientific (ISI) and Google Scholar. The journal has an Impact Factor of 5.06.
4. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an independent online publishing house committed to providing immediate access without charge to the peer-reviewed biological and medical research it publishes. This commitment is based on the view that open access to research is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.