Scientists Discover Aphids Usually Land Feet First When They Fall

Posted on February 8, 2013

Pea Aphids Leaf

Scientists have discovered that aphids have a cat-like skill. They can land on their feet after a fall 96% of the time. Those are some pea aphids on a leaf in the above photo. Researchers from the University of Haifa and Israel Institute of Technology conducted an experiment to observe the small insects falling. The scientists dropped pea aphids onto a layer of cardboard covered with red power. 96% of the aphids landed feet first, indicated by a red spot on their abdomens after the fall.

National Geographic reports of another falling aphid test, where aphids were placed on fava beans over petroleum jelly and then frightened by showing them a ladybug, which predates aphids. The insects fell off the fava beans in fear and landed on their feet 95% of the time after falling into the jelly. Dead aphids were also tested. They only landed feet first 52% of the time. Live aphids with their legs amputated by the scientists only landed the right way up 28% of the time.

The scientists say they determined using mathematical models that "the air resistance on the aphids' appendages rotates their bodies as they fall through air regardless of their starting orientation." The research was published here in Current Biology.

Here are a couple videos of falling aphids. Take a look:

Photo: Current Biology, Ribak et al.

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