Adult Issus coleoptratus from Königsforst near Cologne, Germany. Credit: Sarefo

Researchers at the University of Cambridge has found a living organism that uses “mechanical gears” to move.

It is the insect “Issus Coleoptratus” that appears to be equipped with body parts that have never before been found in the animal world. As it seems to have its two hind legs linked together by gears, possibly to help shoot the little bug away when it leaps.

The unexpected discovery was made when the researchers investigated how the insect could jump at speeds up to 3 meters per second. Each of the gears appears to have ten to twelve teeth with a total length of 0.4 millimeters. These gears only exist when the insects are young however and disappear later when they get older.

Mechanical gears were previously believed to be a man-made exclusivity. But this insect shows that nature and evolution developed interlocking cogs long before we did.

In the clip below, professor Malcolm Burrows talks about the findings. Also about working with artists Elizabeth Hobbs, Emily Tracy and members of the community in the London borough of Hackney to produce the film ‘Waterfolk’.


Functioning ‘mechanical gears’ seen in nature for the first time