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Not where you might expect to find gears

insect gears

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have that a small plant-hopping insect, the Issus, has hind leg joints that very closely resemble mechanical gears like those in a car gearbox. These gears ensure that the Issus’ hind legs move with precise synchronisty when it starts to jump. In fact greater synchronicity than if the legs were controlled by neural signals alone. As Malcolm Burrows from the University of Cambridge says ‘In Issus, the skeleton is used to solve a complex problem that the brain and nervous system can’t.’ This is a really interesting example of a mechanical solution to what appears to be a nervous system issue. It reminds me of the origins of computing in Jacquard weaving….

Website link: “Functioning ‘mechanical gears’ seen in nature for the first time”, 12th September 2013