The jumping mechanism of cicada Cercopis vulnerata (Auchenorrhyncha, Cercopidae): skeleton-muscle organisation, frictional surfaces, and inverse-kinematic model of leg movements

Arthropod Struct Dev. 2004 Jul;33(3):201-20. doi: 10.1016/j.asd.2004.05.008.


In Auchenorrhyncha, jumping is achieved by metathoracic muscles which are inserted into the trochanter of the hind leg. The synchronisation of movements of the hind legs is a difficult problem, as the leg extension that produces the jump occurs in less than 1 ms. Even slight asynchrony could potentially result in failure of a jump. Both the synchronisation of the movements of a pair of jumping legs, and their stabilisation during a jump, seem to be important problems for small jumping insects. The present study was performed in order to clarify some questions of the functional morphology of the leafhopper jumping mechanism. It is based on skeleton-muscle reconstruction, high-speed video recordings, transmission (TEM) and scanning electron microscopic (SEM) investigations of the cuticle, together with 3D inverse-kinematic modelling of angles and working zones of hind leg joints of cicada Cercopis vulnerata (Cercopidae). The complete extension of the hind leg takes less than 1 ms, which suggests that the jump is powered not only by the muscle system, but also by an elastic spring. Histological staining and fluorescence microscopy showed resilin-bearing structures, responsible for elastic energy storage, in the pleural area of the metathorax. Synchronisation of hind leg movements may be aided by microtrichia fields that are located on the medial surface of each hind coxa. In Auchenorrhyncha, hind coxae are rounded in their anterior and lateral parts, whereas medial parts are planar, and contact each other over a rather large area. The inverse-kinematic model of propulsive leg movements was used to draw the surface outlined by the medial surface of the coxa, during the jump movement. This is a cone surface, faced with its bulged-in side, medially. Surfaces outlined by the movements of both right and left coxae overlap in their anterior and posterior positions. In both extreme positions, coxae are presumably connected to each other by coupled microtrichia fields. Thus, in extreme positions, both coxae can be moved synchronously.