Scientists spot functional ‘mechanical Gears’ in nature for the first time

This image shows cog wheels connecting the hind legs of the plant hopper, Issus. Credit: Burrows/Sutton

Scientists have made another sensational discovery as they’ve found—for the first time ever—functional mechanical gears in nature. Once again, nature seems to be the first to have achieved a basic technology. This discovery proves that GEAR MECHANISMS—which were previously thought to be only man-made— have an evolutionary natural precedent.

Scientists say that this is the “first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure“.

The mechanical gears were discovered in a plant-hopping insect which his commonly found in gardens across Europe.

Issus coleoptratus, a jumping insect similar to fleas or grasshoppers, uses joints with toothed curves that fit together and rotate just like mechanical gears. This allows it to have its legs synchronized when jumping, a fundamental characteristic of this type of insect that makes powerful jumps, if it did not have this type of naturally occurring mechanical gears, its jump would end up out of control.

According to reports, the gears inside the Issus, bear REMARKABLE engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle, and inside every car gear box.

Furthermore, scientists reveal that each gear tooth inside the Issus has a rounded corner at the point where it connects to the gear strip, a feature eerily similar to man-made gears.

This is the first biological structure in which a cogwheel-like gear—a mechanism to transmit power from one component to another in the inside—is discovered, says study leader Malcolm Burrows, a zoologist at Cambridge University.

“This precise synchronization would be impossible to achieve through a nervous system, as neural impulses would take far too long for the extraordinarily tight coordination required,” said lead author Professor Malcolm Burrows, from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

“By developing mechanical gears, the Issus can just send nerve signals to its muscles to produce roughly the same amount of force – then if one leg starts to propel the jump the gears will interlock, creating absolute synchronicity.

“In Issus, the skeleton is used to solve a complex problem that the brain and nervous system can’t,” said Burrows. “This emphasizes the importance of considering the properties of the skeleton in how movement is produced.”

“We usually think of gears as something that we see in human designed machinery, but we’ve found that that is only because we didn’t look hard enough,” added co-author Gregory Sutton, now at the University of Bristol.

“These gears are not designed; they are evolved – representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronization in the animal world.”

Scientists revealed that each gear strip found in the Issus was approximately 400 micrometers long, having between 10 and 12 ‘teeth. Furthermore, both sides of the gear, in each leg, contain the same number, resulting in a gearing ratio of 1:1.

Source: University of Cambridge

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

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