Ballistics and visual targeting in flea-beetles (Alticinae)

The Journal of experimental biology

PubMedID: 9319842

Brackenbury J, Wang R. Ballistics and visual targeting in flea-beetles (Alticinae). J Exp Biol. 1997;198(Pt 9):1931-42.
The kinematics of jumping was measured in seven species of flea-beetle (Alticinae). The accuracy of two species during targeted jumping was also investigated. Take-off accelerations ranged from 15 to 270 times gravity. Rotational energy accounted for 4­21 % of the total translational energy. Two species were able to control jump direction and landing. When presented with a high-contrast optical grid, Chalcoides aurata exhibited two alternative jump modes. In mode 1 or wingless jumping, the body rotated continuously, the insect rarely landed on its feet and no discrimination was shown between landing on the black or white stripes of the grid. In mode 2 jumping, recruitment of the wings eliminated rotation and virtually ensured a feet-first landing; there was also a significant preference for jumping towards the black stripes. Aphthona atrocaerulea could alter take-off angle in order to strike targets at inclinations of 0­90 ° to the horizontal. Targets consisting of a white illuminated cross on a black background were struck with equal accuracy, regardless of distance (within the normal jumping range). The beetle aimed specifically for the centre of the target and not for the high-contrast boundary. The distribution of hits about the target centre was radially symmetrical. Although take-off was wingless, rotation could be abolished in mid jump, within 10 ms, by extending the wings. This virtually guaranteed a feet-first landing. Targeting accuracy is discussed in the context of biomechanical steering mechanisms and visual control.