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J Exp Biol. 2009 Sep 1;212(17):2844-55. doi: 10.1242/jeb.032326.

Jumping performance of planthoppers (Hemiptera, Issidae).

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


The structure of the hind limbs and the kinematics of their movements that propel jumping in planthopper insects (Hemiptera, Auchenorrhyncha, Fulgoroidea, Issidae) were analysed. The propulsion for a jump was delivered by rapid movements of the hind legs that both move in the same plane beneath the body and parallel to its longitudinal axis, as revealed in high-speed sequences of images captured at rates up to 7500 images s(-1). The first and key movement was the depression of both trochantera about their coxae, powered by large depressor muscles in the thorax, accompanied by rapid extension of the tibiae about their femora. The initial movements of the two trochantera of the hind legs were synchronised to within 0.03 ms. The hind legs are only 20% longer than the front and middle legs, represent 65% of the body length, and have a ratio of 1.8 relative to the cube root of the body mass. The two hind coxae have a different structure to those in frog- and leafhoppers. They are fused at the mid-line, covered ventrally by transparent cuticle, and each is fixed laterally to a part of the internal skeleton called the pleural arch that extends to the articulation of a hind wing. A small and pointed, ventral coxal protrusion covered in microtrichia engages with a raised, smooth, white patch on a dorsal femur when a hind leg is levated (cocked) in preparation for a jump. In the best jumps by a male Issus, the body was accelerated in 0.8 ms to a take-off velocity of 5.5 m s(-1), was subjected to a force of 719 g and was displaced a horizontal distance of 1.1 m. This performance required an energy output of 303 microJ, a power output of 388 mW and exerted a force of 141 mN, or more than 700 times its body mass. This performance implies that a catapult mechanism must be used, and that Issus ranks alongside the froghopper Philaenus as one of the best insect jumpers.

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