Ninth place in the 2014 OlympusBioscapes contest was won by Dr Igor Siwanowicz. This sharp image of a compelling complex structure has pleasing colors. What is it?
The image shows the trochanters of an immature green coneheaded planthopper, Acanalonia conica as viewed with a confocal microscope. My previous posts discussed structural coupling of opposite wings in flies. The green coneheaded planthopper uses this structure to couple movement of its jumping legs. The planthopper has a catch mechanism that allows force to be loaded onto the leg joint by slow muscle contractions. The force on the joint is released suddenly to move the jumping leg with both force and power. In the planthopper, the cog-like gears coordinate the movement of the jumping legs on opposite sides of the body. The cogs ensure that the force on both jumping leg joints is released simultaneously so the legs move in unison. The green coneheaded planthopper is the first documented use of gear structures in nature.