Mechanical Design of Popping Beetles

I’ve noticed this ever since I was a kid. In Belarus there were these tiny beetles that would jump if you try holding them or put them on their backs. They were doing it by moving their head part really fast. However, I was never really curious to figure out how exactly they did it.

So comes this blog – Beetles In The Bush – that I subscribed to who knows when.

A large spine on the prosternum fits into a groove on the mesosternum.

A large spine on the prosternum fits into a groove on the mesosternum. From Beetles In The Bush

The author is very good at describing all sorts of insect species and, especially, at taking their photos. But, the reason I want to point to this blog today is that in his latest post – Pop! goes the beetle – he also explains the mechanism how the beetles do this rather interesting movement. How the muscles store the potential energy and the two mechanical parts allow for fast release of that energy.

There was some discussion on the reasons, from the evolutionary standpoint, for this ‘feature’ – to fight the potential predators or just recover from landing on their back. And also discussion on the reason why the beetles jump so high. Seems like waste of energy. But when getting away from a predator no energy should be spared.

Interestingly, this is the second example, for me at least, of insects building essentially mechanical devices out of their exoskeleton to achieve their goals. One more was listed by Gizmag last September – Insect uses gears to enable 200 g hops.

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