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Publication - Dr Gregory Sutton

    Jumping without slipping

    leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) possess special tarsal structures for jumping from smooth surfaces


    Clemente, CJ, Hanns, G, Bullock, JM, Sutton, G, Burrows, M & Federle, W, 2017, ‘Jumping without slipping: leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) possess special tarsal structures for jumping from smooth surfaces’. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, vol 14.


    Many Hemipteran bugs can jump explosively from plant substrates, which can be very smooth. We therefore analysed the jumping performance of froghoppers (Philaenus spumarius, Aphrophoridae) and leafhoppers (Aphrodes bicinctus/makarovi, Cicadellidae) taking off from smooth (glass) and rough (sandpaper, 30 µm asperity size) surfaces. On glass, the propulsive hind legs of Philaenus froghoppers slipped, resulting in uncontrolled jumps with a fast forward spin. Compared to jumps from rough surfaces, they took off with a steeper angle and only a quarter of the velocity. By contrast, Aphrodes leafhoppers took off without their propulsive hind legs slipping, and reached low take-off angles and high velocities on both substrates. The hind tarsi of leafhoppers, but not of froghoppers, each have 2-9 soft pad-like structures (platellae), which high speed videos of jumping show to contact the surface briefly (~3 ms) during the acceleration phase. Friction force measurements on individual hind tarsi on glass revealed that at low sliding speeds, both pushing and pulling forces were small, and insufficient to explain the recorded jumps. Only when the tarsi were pushed with higher velocities did the contact area of the platellae increase markedly, and high friction forces were produced, consistent with the observed jumps. Our findings show that leafhoppers have special adhesive footpads for jumping from smooth surfaces, which achieve firm grip and rapid control of attachment/detachment by combining anisotropic friction with velocity-dependence.

    Full details in the University publications repository