Thursday, 10 February 2011

Flea foot power transfer

The mystery of how fleas jump resolved thanks to Professor Malcolm Burrows and Dr Gregory Sutton from the University of Cambridge Department of Zoology.

Back 1967, Henry Bennet-Clark made the discovered of resilin, the 'elastic' protein that fleas use to store the energy for jumping, however since then flea scientists have been debating how that energy was transferred into the ground to allow the flea to reach such speeds and hights.

The Cambridge scientists used low light conditions which kept the fleas calm whilst they setup the cameras then turned up the lighting to see them jump. The videos were analysed and mathermatical models were used to predict the results.

Sutton and Burrows suspected that the insects push down through the tibia (shin) onto the tarsus (toe). Using a mathematical model that could reproduce the flea's trajectory, the scientists were able to confirm that the insects transmit the force from the spring in the thorax through leg segments acting as levers to push down on the tarsus (toe), solving the 44 year old mystery.


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