The jumping mechanism of Xenopsylla cheopis. III. Execution of the jump and activity

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1975 Oct 30;271(914):499-515. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1975.0064.


The flea's hind legs are the chief source of jumping power, but in species which execute large jumps, take-off is accelerated by elastic energy released from a resilin pad (homologous with the wing hinge ligaments of flying insects) situated in the pleural arch. A central click mechanism, operated by a rapid twitch of the trochanteral depressor (the starter muscle), synchronizes the separate sources of energy which power the jump. Ciné photos confirm the morphological evidence that the flea takes off from the trochanters, not the tarsi. The loss of wings, associated with lateral compression of the body and the shortening of the pleural ridge (which thus lowers the position of the pleural arch) together with modifications of the direct and indirect flight muscles, are some of the main morphological features associated with the change from a flying to a saltatorial mode of progression. The flea's take-off basically resembles that of other Panorpoid insects (Diptera, Mecoptera, etc.). The release of elastic energy from the pleural arch is a system by which the force used to move the wings of flying insects is rapidly fed back into the legs and adds power to the jump.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Locomotion
  • Male
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Muscles / ultrastructure
  • Siphonaptera / anatomy & histology
  • Siphonaptera / physiology*
  • Temperature