Nature & Environment
Tiny insect uses its butt to shoot pee droplets at superfast speeds
By T.K. Randall
March 1, 2023 · 4 comments
This insect has a rather unique party trick. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Judy Gallagher
Researchers have discovered that a species of cicada exhibits the first and only known example of 'superpropulsion' in nature.
A great deal of time and effort has been spent over the years understanding how insects eat and drink, but far less has been spent determining how they urinate and defecate.
Now a team of researchers studying a type of cicada known as the glassy-winged sharpshooter have discovered that this unassuming insect has a rather novel trick up its sleeve.
Measuring a mere 1.2 cm in length, the insect's diet consists of 95% water and only 5% nutrients, meaning that it needs to urinate the equivalent of 300 times its own body weight every day.
Impressively, it does this by excreting single droplets and then catapulting them large distances at remarkable speeds using a special structure on its rear-end.
So great is the force at which the droplets are pinged away that the insect is now thought to be the only insect known to be capable of 'superpropulsion' - which is when an elastic projectile moves faster than its launchpad due to the way it syncs its motions, a bit like a diver on a springboard.
"Oftentimes we overlook excretion because it's taboo or silly, but it's a critical biological function akin to feeding that has important energetic, ecological and evolutionary implications," said study author Elio Challita of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
"What started as a curious observation of an unusual peeing mechanism uncovered the first example of superpropulsion in a biological organism."
Source: Live Science
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