The order Hemiptera includes jumping insects with the fastest take-off velocities, all generated by catapult mechanisms. It also contains the large family Miridae or plant bugs. Here we analysed the jumping strategies and mechanisms of six mirid species from high speed videos and from the anatomy of their propulsive legs and conclude that they use a different mechanism in which jumps are powered by the direct contractions of muscles. Three strategies were identified. First, jumping was propelled only by movements of the middle and hind legs which were respectively 140% and 190% longer than the front legs. In three species with masses ranging from 3.4 to 12.2 mg, depression of the coxo-trochanteral and extension of femoro-tibial joints accelerated the body in 8-17 ms to take-off velocities of 0.5 to 0.8 m s− 1. The middle legs lost ground contact 5-6 ms before take-off so that the hind legs generated the final propulsion. The power requirements could be met by the direct muscle contractions so that catapult mechanisms are not implicated. Second, other species combined the same leg movements with wing beating to generate take-off during a wing downstroke. In the third strategy, up to four wing beat cycles preceded take-off and were not assisted by leg movements. Take-off velocities were reduced and acceleration times lengthened. Other species from the same habitat did not jump. The lower take-off velocities achieved by powering jumping by direct muscle contractions may be offset by eliminating the time taken to load catapult mechanisms.
- Received November 28, 2016.
- Accepted February 6, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd