New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Bzz..klik: Insect with a gearbox?

2013-09-16 13:12

NATURE'S MANUAL GEARBOX: The Issus is the first example of a natural cog/gear mechanism with an observable function, reports a study. Image: YouTube

We've seen cars with bug eyes but how about bugs with gearboxes? A plant-hopping insect has hind-leg joints with curved cogs that rotate like mechanical gears.

LONDON, England - Issus Coleoptratus, a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe, has hind-leg joints with curved cogs of interlocking-teeth. The strips rotate like mechanical gears to synchronise the insect's legs before it jumps.

Seriously, it's an insect with a gearbox! The Issus' gears bear remarkable resemblance to those found in a vehicle transmission.

Video: Working gears in plant-hopping insect

The findings are the result of a study published in 2013 by the University of Cambridge titled "Interacting Gears Synchronize Propulsive Leg Movements in a Jumping Insect," by Malcolm Burrows in 2013.


According to the academic journal Science, experts believe this is "the first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure".

The teeth on the opposing hind-legs lock together to ensure synchronicity and according to the study, "the legs move within 30 microseconds of each other." A microsecond is equal to a millionth of a second.

Each gear strip is about 400 micrometres long and consists of 10 to 12 teeth. The gears on each leg contain the same number of teeth giving the Issus a gearing ratio of 1:1.

Synchronisation is vital for the powerful jumps of which the insect is capable of since a minor discrepancy could cause it to spin out of control.

Burrows said: "This precise synchronisation would be impossible to achieve through a nervous system, as neural impulses would take far too long for the extraordinarily tight co-ordination required."

"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 and synchronise the legs.

Interestingly, the gears are only found in the insect's juvenile/nymph stages and are lost in adulthood. Scientists believe the larger adults might be able to create enough to power to leap without the need for gears.

Read more on:    england

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.