Insect Jumping Springs

Gregory Sutton, Malcolm Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
208 Downloads (Pure)


As anyone who has tried to catch a grasshopper or a planthopper knows, many insects can jump very rapidly. A planthopper can accelerate in less than 1 millisecond to a take-off velocity of 5 m s–1, requiring a power output (energy per given time) of tens of thousands of Watts per kilogram of muscle. To do this, jumping insects have to overcome two mechanical limitations. First, the maximum mechanical power a muscle can produce is only approximately 300 W kg–1 and furthermore, the faster a muscle contracts, the less force it can generate, exacerbating the problem. Second, a jumping animal can only accelerate while it remains in contact with the ground: in most small insects, therefore, the length of the propulsive legs determines the time available to reach a given take-off velocity. Some larger insects, like katydids, use the leverage provided by their disproportionately long legs to multiply the power produced by direct muscle contraction to propel jumps. If the legs are short, however, alternative mechanisms must be used to generate the necessary mechanical power. How do these insects do it? They jump by using springs; devices that allow energy to be stored gradually in mechanical deformations and then released abruptly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R142-R143
Number of pages2
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2018


  • Biomechanics
  • Springs
  • Jumping


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