- News Home
17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
ScienceShot: Machinery of Life
12 September 2013 2:00 pm
Long before humans assembled gears into watches and car transmissions, the planthopper insect in the genus Issus evolved gears of its own. An interlocking gear structure synchronizes the movement of the insect's hind legs during a jump and prevents it from spinning out of control like a plane that has lost control of its yaw. The juvenile planthopper, called a nymph, has a row of 10 to 12 teeth on the inner surface of each back leg, which engage and force the legs to move in unison. High-speed video reveals that, thanks to the gears, the two legs spring into action within 30 microseconds of each other. Without the gear structure, such synchronized movement would be difficult, as the spike in neural activity that generates this movement lasts much longer, about 1 millisecond, the group reports online today in Science. Curiously, adult planthoppers lack such gears but seem to be better jumpers anyway, perhaps because, with their larger bodies, they can more easily rely on friction between the surfaces of their legs to keep them synchronized.