Gear mechanisms, previously thought to be entirely man-made, have been found in nature for the first time, functioning as the leg hinges of a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe.
The Issus is the genus of plant hoppers where the cog-like joints were found.
The gears serve a powerful purpose. The bugs jump at insane speeds and distances, producing somewhere between 500G to 700G of force and the gears guarantee a synchronization in back leg movement, something that a nervous system, alone, couldn’t coordinate.
“This precise synchronisation would be impossible to achieve through a nervous system, as neural impulses would take far too long for the extraordinarily tight coordination required,” said lead author Professor Malcolm Burrows, from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.
“By developing mechanical gears, the Issus can just send nerve signals to its muscles to produce roughly the same amount of force – then if one leg starts to propel the jump the gears will interlock, creating absolute synchronicity.
So, we thought we created the gear mechanism, but it seems that we actually discovered it. What other inventions already exist in nature?