Friday, February 29, 2008

Leaping Animals

Happy Leap Day!

Today we crown the best leaper in the animal kingdom. Think you can guess what it is? The grasshopper? No. The Flea? You're getting warmer.

The Froghopper, or Spittlebug, is the world's greatest leaper. Only about the size of a pencil's eraser, the froghopper can jump more than 2 feet. That's like a human leaping over the St. Louis Arch—690 feet into the air! How does the froghopper do this? It stores large amounts of energy in its muscular hind legs. It does not use these legs for basic locomotion, but drags them along behind its body, leaving them constantly poised for liftoff. When danger nears, the froghopper accelerates itself at 400 times the force of gravity (400 gs). Most humans pass out if they accelerate faster than 3gs without a specially designed g-force suit.

Spittlebugs (or froghoppers) are found worldwide. They are considered a common farm pest because they pierce plant stems and drink the juice, destroying the crop. The spittlebug covers itself with white foamy bubbles made from its own saliva. This protects it from the sun and predation. You've probably seen the "cuckoo spit" as this substance is called, but if you saw the spittlebug I bet you didn't see him for long.

Thank you Wikipedia commons for the photo.

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