Anorak News | Beetle Mania

Beetle Mania

by | 31st, July 2003

‘FOR years now, the common flea has had an uncommon claim to fame – it has been renowned throughout the animal kingdom as the world’s greatest jumper.

Froghopper is now looking to dominate the long jump as well

No longer. That accolade now belongs to a beetle which spends most of its life encased in cuckoo spit but which has emerged as a kind of insect Dick Fosbury.

The spittle bug, otherwise known as the froghopper, can leap to heights of 70cm, according to scientists at Cambridge University – the equivalent of a human hurdling a 210m skyscraper.

Using a high-speed camera, entomologist Dr Malcolm Burrow discovered that froghoppers use pent-up energy to accelerate to speeds of up to 4,000m/s.

‘Fleas are considered to be the champion jumpers, but here I show that froghoppers are in fact the real champions and that they achieve their supremacy by using a novel catapult mechanism for jumping,’ he tells the Independent.

In fact, the froghopper is easily the flea’s superior, being able to exert a force of more than 400 times its body weight, compared with a flea at 135 times and a human at about three times.

Elsewhere in the animal Olympics, the cheetah narrowly edged out the roe dear in the 200m, the orang-utan won the shot-putt but there was a surprise in the pole vault, which was won by a lowly locust from the Gambia.

Posted: 31st, July 2003 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink