Water striders adjust leg movement speed to optimize takeoff velocity for their morphology
Yang, E., Son, J. H., Jablonski, P. G., & Kim, H. Y.
Water striders are water-walking insects that can jump upwards from the water surface. Quick jumps allow striders to avoid sudden dangers such as predators’ attacks, and therefore their jumping is expected to be shaped by natural selection for optimal performance. Related species with different morphological constraints could require different jumping mechanics to successfully avoid predation. Here we show that jumping striders tune their leg rotation speed to reach the maximum jumping speed that water surface allows. We find that the leg stroke speeds of water strider species with different leg morphologies correspond to mathematically calculated morphology-specific optima that maximize vertical takeoff velocity by fully exploiting the capillary force of water. These results improve the understanding of correlated evolution between morphology and leg movements in small jumping insects, and provide a theoretical basis to develop biomimetic technology in semi-aquatic environments.