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Take a bow: How the jumping bug breaks world record

Scientists in Britain said Monday they could explain how the froghopper froghopper or spittlebug, small, hopping insect of the order Homoptera. The adult, under 1-2 in. (1.2 cm) long in most species, is triangular in shape and usually gray or dull green to brown. , an insect that size for size is the world's champion jumper, achieves its extraordinary spring.

Philaenus spumarius Noun 1. Philaenus spumarius - North American insect that severely damages grasses
meadow spittlebug

spittle insect, spittlebug - small leaping herbivorous insect that lives in a mass of protective froth which it and its larvae secrete
 can leap as high as 70 centimetres (28 inches), or more than 100 times its body length -- the equivalent of a human jumping over the Great Pyramid from a standing start.

To do this, the creature attains an initial acceleration of 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) per second per second. The gravitational grav·i·ta·tion  
1. Physics
a. The natural phenomenon of attraction between physical objects with mass or energy.

b. The act or process of moving under the influence of this attraction.

 force on its body at this point of 400 G, or 80 times that exerted on an astronaut being launched into orbit.

How the froghopper does this trick has been something of a mystery. Fleas can also jump extremely high but they are 60 times lighter, which means that a froghopper must have something extra-special.

The answer, says University of Cambridge zoologist Malcolm Burrows, lies in a bow-like structure in the insect's internal skeleton, located between its hind legs and wings.

Like an archer tensing his weapon, the bug contracts its muscles to draw back this so-called pleural Pleural
Pleural refers to the pleura or membrane that enfolds the lungs.

Mentioned in: Pneumothorax


emanating from or pertaining to the pleura.
 arch and then releases the stored energy in one go, like a catapult.

The pleural arch is a composite structure, comprising layers of hard cuticle cuticle /cu·ti·cle/ (ku´ti-k'l)
1. a layer of more or less solid substance covering the free surface of an epithelial cell.

2. eponychium (1).

3. a horny secreted layer.
 and a rubbery protein called resilin res·i·lin  
An elastic substance consisting of cross-linked protein chains, found in the cuticles of many insects.

[resil(e) + -in.]
 with extraordinary elastic powers that scientists are trying to synthesise for commercial use.

The device is so remarkable that the froghoppers are able to keep the arch in a bent "ready position", so that it can jump at a moment's notice. It can be flexed repeatedly, without damage to the bow or the insect's body.

Froghoppers are also called spittlebugs, because they emerge from nymphs that are bathed in protective foam, sometimes known as cuckoo spit, that hangs from foliage. The species is widespread in temperate climates in Europe and North America.

The study by Burrows' team is published in the free-access British-based journal BMC (BMC Software, Inc., Houston, TX, A leading supplier of software that supports and improves the availability, performance, and recovery of applications in complex computing environments.  Biology.
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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Sep 29, 2008
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