LEARN FROM NATURE #4
GEARS OF THE PLANTHOPPER
People generally assume gears were first invented by man. But is that the case?
Recently scientists discovered a gear system that was created long before the appearance of man. And it’s inside a living creature!
Let’s rewind several thousand years, before humans even existed.
Let’s visit some tiny planthoppers. This one is the juvenile Issus.
Can you imagine: An Issus has 2 interlocking gears at the base of its hind legs. When it jumps, the gears help to precisely synchronize its legs. Why is that important? Both legs need to exert the exact same force at the same time. Otherwise the Issus would lose control of its spin.
The gear system of the Issus is so precise that it can reach a velocity of over 12 feet per second in just two thousandths of a second. That’s almost 200 times the force of gravity! Fascinating, right?
Looking at this creature, we can definitely say that anything we humans develop now was already invented by someone else before us. We just need to discover and see the design and innovation that already exists in creation.
NAVIGATIONAL SENSORS OF THE CAT WHISKER
Have you wished you could navigate in the dark? Like whenever you’re hungry at night, and you want to go from your bedroom to the kitchen without waiting for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Ever wonder how cats can navigate at night? The secret is the cats’ whiskers.
Cats can navigate in the dark because their whiskers are connected to tissues with ultra-sensitive nerves. In fact, they’re so sensitive, they can even detect the slightest movements in air. Cats can navigate well in the dark because they can detect objects without seeing them.
Whiskers are also sensitive to pressure. This helps cats understand the position and movements of objects and also to measure the size of openings before they go through. The Encyclopedia Britannica states: “The functions of the whiskers are only partially understood; however, it is known that, if they are cut off, the cat is temporarily incapacitated.” That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? So kids, please don’t cut off your cat’s whiskers.
Scientists are creating robots that have electronic sensors that function similarly as whiskers. The sensors are called “e-whiskers” and they help the robots to navigate around obstacles. According to Ali Javey, a scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, the e-whiskers, ” should have a wide range of applications for advanced robotics, human-machine user interfaces, and biological applications.”
LIGHT OF THE BOBTAIL SQUID
The Hawaiian Bobtail Squid and the Firefly Squid are known for emitting light. The fact that these squids can emit light is quite amazing in itself. But it’s not for aesthetic purposes. What’s even more astonishing is that that emite light – not to be seen – but to remain hidden! What does that mean?
Did you know that light from the moon and stars creates silhouettes of sea creatures to predators below? It makes creatures vulnerable to predators. But this squid has an organ in its underside which houses bioluminescent bacteria, so the squid can mimic the same intensity and wavelength of moonlight and starlight. It does this so that predators wont see its silhouette or shadow. The occurrence is called counter illumination and is the squid’s natural form of lighting camouflage.
It’s believed that the bacteria also help to regulate the squid’s circadian rhythm. This is relevant to human health because in mammals, bacteria that aids in digestion may also be associated with circadian rhythms. Disturbance to these rhythms have been linked to health issues such as depression, diabetes, obesity, and sleep disorders. That’s why researchers are interested in the squid and the bacteria. Perhaps in the future we may be able to better understand its correlation and therefore benefit human health.
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