How does a tiny beetle reach superb speeds

The larger the animal, the faster it can fly. But how can a small beetle fly three times faster than an insect?

Insects have gotten smaller and smaller over the past 300 million years. However, this did not make them fly at a lower speed. Feather beetles are among the smallest insects available today. Measuring 0.4 mm in length, they are about the same size as some unicellular organisms. But this little beetle is going really fast.

To see how this is possible, they looked closely at this animal. Primarily feather beetles have wings that look different than, say, the wings of a fly. Instead of wings with taut membranes, it also has two brush-like wings, or – as its name suggests – feathers. The aerodynamics of their flight movements has already been examined often with larger insects such as the fruit fly, but not yet with smaller insects such as the feather beetle.

Until now. Thanks to recordings using a high-speed camera and highly sensitive computer models, the researchers were able to visualize the exact flight motion of the feathered beetle. It turns out that not only do they have additional light wings, but these two additional wings of the brush also flutter in a special way. From front to back in the form of 8, as if they were clapping their hands with exaggerated movements. And precisely thanks to this movement, they managed to be Max Verstappen among the little beetles.

Read more here: Little feathered beetle reveals a new way to fly.

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Megan Vasquez

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