Dynamic Insects: Swirling beetles and jumping maggots

Maden don’t have the best image. Whoever thinks of the larvae often associates rotten food and decaying corpses with them. A new discovery could now increase the scary factor: A team led by biologist Matt Bertone from the University of Raleigh, North Carolina, reports on a species of maggot that literally jumps at you. Larvae can grow up to three times their body size and four times as wide Laemophloeus biguttatus, a species of flat beetle, hop. The researchers write about their find in “PLOS ONE“. However, insect phobics can breathe a sigh of relief: the larvae measure only about half a centimeter and prefer to live under the bark of dying trees.

Japanese discovered more jumping larva

Coincidentally, such a trunk was not far from Bertone’s laboratory. Here the entomologist collected various insect samples, knowing that the dead tree would soon be cut down by campus gardeners when he spotted the tiny larvae taking off. From the unusual behavior he can Video and put it on the YouTube video platform. A Japanese biologist then contacted him who observed the same behavior in larvae of the beetle species Placonotus testaceus had observed. Takahiro Yoshida, a beetle specialist from Tokyo Prefectural University, had not yet published his discovery of the new type of jumping; he and Bertone finally published together in “PLOS ONE”. Since the beetles are not closely related, the entomologists assume that other maggots are also able to hop.

Feather wings without a membrane: Paratuposa placentis under the scanning electron microscope

Image: Farisenkov et al. Nature (2022)

Jumping insects are actually nothing unusual. The special feature of the larval jumps, however, lies in their execution: while other insects make long leaps by wedging two body parts together by applying force and then explosively unlocking this spring mechanism, the larvae proceed differently. The maggots claw the ground with their four little legs, which are located at the head end of their worm-like body, and build up potential energy by tensing. As soon as one of the feet loses contact with the ground, the rest of them follow in a flash and the larva is thrown into the air. Slow motion footage shows the jump from L. biguttatus impressive: the larvae curl up in flight, touching the head and foot end, which reminds the little creatures of high divers performing a dolphin jump. Encircled in this way, they describe a parabolic trajectory before they succeed in rolling skillfully when they land.

Small but nimble: the feathered winged bird

The dwarf beetle Paratoposa cakes is smaller than the larvae, but moves faster through the air relative to its body size. With a length of only 395 micrometers, the dwarf beetle is one of the smallest non-parasitic insects. As a so-called feathered wing, it has a pair of delicate wings, protected under the elytra, with which it can fly just as fast as relatives three times larger. A research team led by biologist Sergey Farisenkov from Lomonosov University in Moscow reports on the cause of its miniature turbo drive in “Nature“, lies in the lightweight design of the wings and in the unusual flapping of the wings. This emerged from the analysis of 13 high-speed images of the flying beetles. They discovered that the little beetle’s wings perform a figure eight or – depending on the viewing angle – an infinity symbol during one stroke cycle.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.