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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1975 Oct 30;271(914):457-90.

The jumping mechanism of Xenopsylla cheopis. I. Exoskeletal structures and musculature.


The jumping apparatus of the flea, which includes highly modified direct and indirect flight muscles, is described: attention is drawn to the various specializations of the exoskeleton which stiffen the thorax and also provide the 'click' mechanism triggering take-off. A finger-like invagination of tall cells within the cavity of the developing pleural arch of the pharate adult secretes the resilin pad. This is illustrated with coloured photographs. It is suggested that winglessness of a Mecopteran-like ancestor pre-adapted fleas to a parasitic life-style, and that a jumping mode of progression was a primitive feature of the whole Order. Scattered throughout the Siphonaptera today are species which have secondarily lost the pleural arch and with it the power to execute large jumps. These are usually found among fleas parasitizing mammals inhabiting caves, subterranean burrows and runs, high aerial nests and snow or ice-bound habitats. Large pleural arches are associated with fleas infesting large mobile hosts.

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