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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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.