Leaping Tall Buildings in a Single Bound
According to New Scientist staff writer Emma McIlroy, “the natural world has a new high-jump champion” (2003). The spittlebug or froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) measures only six millimeters long, but has the ability to leap over 100 times higher than its body length. Commenting on the astonishing jumping ability of the spittlebug, McIlroy noted: “The feat is equivalent to a human bounding over a 70-storey skyscraper” (2003). The “news” behind this story, which was reported in the July 31, 2003 issue of Nature, has to do with the fact that this tiny bug—found evenly distributed all over the world—has displaced fleas as champion jumpers.
Considering that test pilots normally pass out at 7 G’s (seven times the force of gravity found on the surface of the Earth), the initial acceleration of the spittlebug seems virtually impossible. This tiny creature accelerates rapidly, and survives 400 G’s in its “phenomenal” leaps. To comprehend fully how much force is generated, consider that a human astronaut going into space aboard one of NASA’s space shuttles may experience no more than about 5 G’s. This tiny insect endures 80 times that force! Why would an animal endure such grueling forces? Malcolm Burrows, head of zoology at Cambridge University, explained: “Body designs for jumping enable many animals to escape from predators” (Burrows, 2003, 424:509). Ah, yes, neo-Darwinism has the answer—this animal simply “evolved” this innovative athleticism to get away from predators. Burrows further noted:
Animals with long legs (bush babies, kangaroos, and frogs, for example) have a levering power that enables them to use less force to jump the same distance as short-legged animals of comparable mass, whereas those with short legs must rely on the release of stored energy in a rapid catapult action (p. 509).
But Burrows admitted that the jumping feats of this little insect “could not be produced by direct muscle contractions over the short distances and brief time available” (p. 509). Thus, he speculated that the muscular force must be generated by a slow contraction in advance of the movement, storing the energy that then can be released rapidly as needed. In fact, McIlroy noted that the two hind legs of this creature are so specialized that they are “simply dragged along the ground when the insect is walking” (2003). Burrows remarked that about 11% of the body weight of the spittlebug is attributed to a pair of trochanteral depressor muscles in the body that help generate the power needed for these rapid movements.
Evolutionary theorists would suggest that this amazing design simply evolved as a means for the creature to escape predators. This, of course, begs the question of how many previous generations of spittlebugs blacked out as they learned how to survive 400 G’s. Also, how many predators come close to matching the 4,000 m/sec2 that would push these insects to such dramatic heights? And since these froghoppers are evenly distributed all over the globe, it would make sense that we find these fast-accelerating predators similarly distributed. One also must ask if we have “intermediate” evidence of previous generations (or other species) evolving such massive trochanteral depressor muscles in order to reach such accelerated speeds. Of course, after admitting the amazing design behind this propulsion system, one might inquired as to why other creatures did not “evolve” similar methods to avoid predation.
If one steps back and looks at this amazing creature without any evolutionary bias, the intricate design and complexity that produces such “outstanding athletic ability” could only have come from one place—an incredible Designer!
Burrows, Malcolm (2003), “Froghopper Insects Leap to New Heights,” Nature, 424:509, July 31.
McIlroy, Emma (2003), “Leaping Bug is New High-Jump Champion,” New Scientist, [On-line], URL: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994008.