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J Exp Biol. 2010 Feb 1;213(3):469-78. doi: 10.1242/jeb.037861.

Energy storage and synchronisation of hind leg movements during jumping in planthopper insects (Hemiptera, Issidae).

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


The hind legs of Issus (Hemiptera, Issidae) move in the same plane underneath the body, an arrangement that means they must also move synchronously to power jumping. Moreover, they move so quickly that energy must be stored before a jump and then released suddenly. High speed imaging and analysis of the mechanics of the proximal joints of the hind legs show that mechanical mechanisms ensure both synchrony of movements and energy storage. The hind trochantera move first in jumping and are synchronised to within 30 micros. Synchrony is achieved by mechanical interactions between small protrusions from each trochantera which fluoresce bright blue under specific wavelengths of ultra-violet light and which touch at the midline when the legs are cocked before a jump. In dead Issus, a depression force applied to a cocked hind leg, or to the tendon of its trochanteral depressor muscle causes a simultaneous depression of both hind legs. The protrusion of the hind leg that moves first nudges the other hind leg so that both move synchronously. Contractions of the trochanteral depressor muscles that precede a jump bend the metathoracic pleural arches of the internal skeleton. Large areas of these bow-shaped structures fluoresce bright blue in ultraviolet light, and the intensity of this fluorescence depends on the pH of the bathing saline. These are key signatures of the rubber-like protein resilin. The remainder of a pleural arch consists of stiff cuticle. Bending these composite structures stores energy and their recoil powers jumping.

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