Interacting Gears Synchronize Propulsive Leg Movements in a Jumping Insect

Malcolm Burrows, Gregory P Sutton

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

86 Citations (Scopus)
1980 Downloads (Pure)


Gears are found rarely in animals and have never been reported to intermesh and rotate functionally like mechanical gears. We now demonstrate functional gears in the ballistic jumping movements of the flightless planthopper insect Issus. The nymphs, but not adults, have a row of cuticular gear (cog) teeth around the curved medial surfaces of their two hindleg trochantera. The gear teeth on one trochanter engaged with and sequentially moved past those on the other trochanter during the preparatory cocking and the propulsive phases of jumping. Close registration between the gears ensured that both hindlegs moved at the same angular velocities to propel the body without yaw rotation. At the final molt to adulthood, this synchronization mechanism is jettisoned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1254-1256
Number of pages3
Issue number6151
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2013


  • jumping
  • biomechanics
  • gears
  • invertebrate


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