Date of this Version
ZooKeys 915: 87–105 (2020) doi: 10.3897/zookeys.915.38348
Flea beetles (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Alticini) are a hyperdiverse group of organisms with approximately 9900 species worldwide. In addition to walking as most insects do, nearly all the species of flea beetles have an ability to jump and this ability is commonly understood as one of the key adaptations responsible for its diversity. Our investigation of flea beetle jumping is based on high-speed filming, micro- CT scans and 3D reconstructions, and provides a mechanical description of the jump. We reveal that the flea beetle jumping mechanism is a catapult in nature and is enabled by a small structure in the hind femur called an ‘elastic plate’ which powers the explosive jump and protects other structures from potential injury. The explosive catapult jump of flea beetles involves a unique ‘high-efficiency mechanism’ and ‘positive feedback mechanism’. As this catapult mechanism could inspire the design of bionic jumping limbs, we provide a preliminary design for a robotic jumping leg, which could be a resource for the bionics industry.