The Flea’s Ability to Jump Vast Distances Finally Uncovered

Scientists have finally discovered the secret behind the flea’s ability to jump high and vast distances.

Scientists at Cambridge University have finally solved the mystery of how fleas are able to jump so fast and so far.

The question as to how fleas are able to do this has been on many scientist’s lips for decades. Now the latest research has uncovered startling facts as to why the common flea can leap great distances and with such speed.

Scientists already stood that energy is stored within a flea in a spring-like structure. This energy, when released, can catapult the flea over a distance up to 200 times its body length. 

However, researchers were curious as to how such energy was transferred to the ground to allow such a vast jump to happen.

Now boffins at England’s Cambridge University have used high-speed footage to help them reveal the answers to their decades long question. 

The secret apparently lies in the flea’s use of their hind legs. According to scientists they have discovered the flea uses their hind legs as multi-jointed levers.

Using the multi-levered method, the fleas are able to drive their feet onto the ground. From this a sudden release of energy stored in this “coil-spring” system of levers allows the flea to hurl itself upwards and forwards. 

The report has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Diagram of a flea's leg (Image: Journal of Experimental Biology)

Tiny spines on the back of the flea’s hind legs grip the ground for take-off.

The way in which fleas are able to leap so far and fast has been hotly disputed for decades. Over half a century ago, scientists discovered that fleas stored energy in an internal spring, rather than their muscles. 

Two competing theories evolved from such a discovery as scientists argued over the insect’s agility. One group put forward that fleas would bounce upwards from their knees. The other group suggested that the flea used a recoil effect acted through joints in the flea’s hind legs which pushed the insect’s feet to the ground. This stored energy allowed the flea to catapult far distances.

Since then scientists have wanted to determine once and for all the truth behind the flea’s massive jumping ability. 

Cambridge University Scientists helped uncover  the flea’s secrets

Scientists also discovered that fleas would not jump when it was dark. Scientists decided to move special motion camera’s close to a flea, turn off the lights and then quickly turn them back on again. The light being turned on prompted the flea to jump along the plane of the camera. 

Scientists also discovered that fleas jump in the same direction. The reason behind this is unclear but this latest discovery has prompted scientists to finally get to the truth as to why the flea jumps so far and why in the same direction.

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