Skip to comments.Functioning 'mechanical gears' seen in nature for the first time [Proof of 'Intelligent Design'?]
Posted on 09/13/2013 10:22:08 AM PDT by Red Badger
A plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe - has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing 'teeth' that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronise the animal's legs when it launches into a jump.
This image shows cog wheels connecting the hind legs of the plant hopper, Issus. Credit: Burrows/Sutton
Photograph of an Issus nymph. Credit: Malcolm Burrows
The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely man-made have an evolutionary precedent. Scientists say this is the "first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure".
Through a combination of anatomical analysis and high-speed video capture of normal Issus movements, scientists from the University of Cambridge have been able to reveal these functioning natural gears for the first time. The findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Science.
The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box.
Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to man-made gears such as bike gears essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off.
The gear teeth on the opposing hind-legs lock together like those in a car gear-box, ensuring almost complete synchronicity in leg movement - the legs always move within 30 'microseconds' of each other, with one microsecond equal to a millionth of a second.
This is critical for the powerful jumps that are this insect's primary mode of transport, as even miniscule discrepancies in synchronisation between the velocities of its legs at the point of propulsion would result in "yaw rotation" - causing the Issus to spin hopelessly out of control.
"This precise synchronisation would be impossible to achieve through a nervous system, as neural impulses would take far too long for the extraordinarily tight coordination required," said lead author Professor Malcolm Burrows, from Cambridge's Department of Zoology.
"By developing mechanical gears, the Issus can just send nerve signals to its muscles to produce roughly the same amount of force - then if one leg starts to propel the jump the gears will interlock, creating absolute synchronicity.
"In Issus, the skeleton is used to solve a complex problem that the brain and nervous system can't," said Burrows. "This emphasises the importance of considering the properties of the skeleton in how movement is produced."
"We usually think of gears as something that we see in human designed machinery, but we've found that that is only because we didn't look hard enough," added co-author Gregory Sutton, now at the University of Bristol.
"These gears are not designed; they are evolved - representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronisation in the animal world."
Interestingly, the mechanistic gears are only found in the insect's juvenile or 'nymph' stages, and are lost in the final transition to adulthood. These transitions, called 'molts', are when animals cast off rigid skin at key points in their development in order to grow.
It's not yet known why the Issus loses its hind-leg gears on reaching adulthood. The scientists point out that a problem with any gear system is that if one tooth on the gear breaks, the effectiveness of the whole mechanism is damaged. While gear-teeth breakage in nymphs could be repaired in the next molt, any damage in adulthood remains permanent.
It may also be down to the larger size of adults and consequently their 'trochantera' - the insect equivalent of the femur or thigh bones. The bigger adult trochantera might allow them to can create enough friction to power the enormous leaps from leaf to leaf without the need for intermeshing gear teeth to drive it, say the scientists.
Each gear strip in the juvenile Issus was around 400 micrometres long and had between 10 to 12 teeth, with both sides of the gear in each leg containing the same number giving a gearing ratio of 1:1.
Unlike man-made gears, each gear tooth is asymmetrical and curved towards the point where the cogs interlock as man-made gears need a symmetric shape to work in both rotational directions, whereas the Issus gears are only powering one way to launch the animal forward.
While there are examples of apparently ornamental cogs in the animal kingdom - such as on the shell of the cog wheel turtle or the back of the wheel bug - gears with a functional role either remain elusive or have been rendered defunct by evolution.
The Issus is the first example of a natural cog mechanism with an observable function, say the scientists.
It says...Made in China
I love it! The more science tries to disprove God, the more we see His hand in everything. I love it!
I have a degree in mechanical engineering. The best minds in the world can't create a machine this complex. But there is more.
When people compare the mature dragonfly to a flying robot, they fail to consider the fact that the dragonfly developed from a microscopic size, to its mature size, requiring only minimal organic inputs. Try to imagine developing a robot like that. And yet this creature is supposed to have developed by chance. What could be more absurd?
One could almost envision the blueprints and construction drawings for that creature. The uniformity and precision of honeycombs in the bee world is pretty fascinating, also.
If by “intelligent design” you mean God set up a universe in which a mechanism like that could evolve, then the answer is yes.
I think spider webs are amazing.
“...they fail to consider the fact that the dragonfly developed from a microscopic size, to its mature size, requiring only minimal organic inputs.”
Do you mean from the egg to the larval form to the mature adult? Or from the beginning of time?
..and to spider webs!:
I've always wondered, "How does the spider automatically know how to do that??"
The curled tails in dogs is a result of selective breeding by man. This feature is not found in wolves, foxes and other canine type species. The domestication and breeding of foxes in Siberia for the fur industry has show similar trends in the later generations of foxes, just like dogs. The genes are apparently there, but not expressed in the wild............
Perhaps pack dogs don’t need curly tails because they have each other to keep warm, whereas the solitary dogs (pets) need them. Give me a gold star for trying? LOL
All they need to do is make this statement and the notion that God designed it is disallowed! No proof required. Ain't it wonderful how science works?
I watched a program once where the people in a village wore human face masks on the backs of their heads to reduce tiger attacks. Two can play at that game. LOL
Dogs, all dogs, are essentially wolves. They have done DNA studies and found that wolf DNA is indistinguishable form that of a Chihuahua. Dogs and wolves can mate and produce viable offspring that is not sterile like a mule or other hybridized type of animal.
My Chihuahua still thinks she is a wolf..............
Our wolf-like dog thinks our Chihuahua is a wolf.
So, I'd like to see millions of years worth of fossils as non-functioning "near gears" developed.
A lot of faith is needed to believe that this sort or thing came about through millions of random mutations.
They all were eaten by predators because they couldn’t jump.............White Issus can’t jump!...........
My dogs always walks in circles 3 times before lying down, either on the tile or carpet.
Seems like he’s in the woods making a bed in the leaves or something.
Teleology is not support for the existence of God.
That’s their problem. They deride us for believing on God, but they believe and have faith in something that is utterly ridiculous.........
That's because no competent evolutionary scientist makes such a claim. There's a lot more that goes into evolution than random mutations.
Perhaps you are seeing that. The article says the adult insect loses the gears because they are less than ideal.
What’s utterly ridiculous is how you misrepresent evolution and God’s work.
No. Intelligent design is independent of evolution. Other than some variances in species there is no such thing as evolution.
I like to point out to my children the beauty and genius of Gods work, its everywhere around us, and we firmly believe that he used evolution to do it.
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.
― Isaac Newton
Stunning. I am stuned.
Spiders simply follow the diagram. Use your head. Bob
That is, by definition, the nature of science: natural explanations for natural processes.
As soon as you say, "God did it", then you are no longer scientific.
Of course, that doesn't mean you're wrong, it only means that science itself can't go there.
And if you'll give it a little thought, you'll realize that's just the way it should be.
After all, whoever would want some scientist defining what is, or is not, God?
And if you'll give it a little thought, the phrase "natural processes" also is a veiled attempt to EXCLUDE a creative God from the equation.
BTW: "Mother Nature" doesn't really exist either, however it conveniently sidesteps confronting the idea of a creating and sovereign GOD!
Of course, since that is what the word "science" means: natural explanations for natural processes.
As soon as you say, or imply, the word "God" you are not, by definition, being scientific.
Doesn't mean you are wrong, it's just that science by definition of the word is not allowed to go there.
the_Watchman: "the phrase 'natural processes' also is a veiled attempt to EXCLUDE a creative God from the equation."
You still don't "get it", do you?
There's nothing "veiled" about it.
From Day One of the scientific enterprise that, precisely, has been "the deal" -- science does not ever intrude on, confirm or deny anything outside the natural realm.
So, if you wish to inject God into your world view, then you must do it yourself.
Science will not do it for you -- not now, not ever.
And I'm here to tell you, believe me, you don't want science attempting to define what is, or is not, God or God's Hand, or God's works or anything else having to do with your own religious faith.
That's not the job of science, it's not the function of science, and by definition of the word, it's not "science".
Now, finally, do you "get it"?
What I “get” is that you have totally bought into the concepts introduced during the European so-called “Enlightenment” that crowded God out of science. In the actual “Day One” Theology was dubbed the Queen of the Sciences.
The Western belief in a beneficent rational creator led directly to the scientific advances of the last 1000 years. Western science, whether it wishes to deny the past or not, is standing on the broad shoulders of those in the past who were exploring God’s creation engaged in a process of reverse engineering; i.e., examining and marveling at the DESIGN.
BTW: Why don’t you drop the snarkiness? I have given this quite a bit more than a “little thought” and I “get” quite a bit more than you might think.
Please, you need first to remember that the United States, our Founding Fathers, their Declaration and Constitution are the very crown jewels of the Enlightenment.
There are no greater Enlightenment figures than men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John Adams.
Without the Enlightenment, there would be no United States of America, and so I'm telling you: don't be slapping the Enlightenment around.
Second, all of our Enlightenment Founders were Christians or Christian-deists, meaning they all believed in God, in one sense or another.
So the Enlightenment did not "crowd God out of science" in any way, shape or form.
the_Watchman: "In the actual Day One Theology was dubbed the Queen of the Sciences."
Sure, in the Middle Ages before there was any serious philosophically-scientific enterprise, Christian Universities dubbed theology, "the Queen of the Sciences."
And theology was not dethroned as Queen by Mathematics until the mid-1800s Romantic era.
So yes, the 19th century Romantic and 20th century Modern eras certainly did dethrone theology and "crowd out God", but not our Founders' Age of Enlightenment.
They viewed God as central to everything, including our Natural Rights -- for them, no God = no Rights.
And on the relationship of Philosophy and Theology, according to St. Thomas Aquinas:
Philosophy takes as its data the deliverances of our natural mental faculties: what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
These data can be accepted on the basis of the reliability of our natural faculties with respect to the natural world.
Theology, on the other hand takes as its starting point the divine revelations contained in the Bible.
These data can be accepted on the basis of divine authority, in a way analogous to the way in which we accept, for example, the claims made by a physics professor about the basic facts of physics."
So, if you wish to see the world through theological or teleological eyes, that is your right and privilege.
But science (a branch of philosophy) cannot, and must not, do so.
Science can only look for natural explanations of natural processes.
That's why a key to understanding (which you clearly do not) is to see that science is the handmaiden -- the servant -- of philosophy.
Oh, oh, oh, you endlessly whine and complain: science has become our wicked master, subjecting philosophy and theology to its evil intentions! Woe are we! The world is at an end because science has run amuck!, you say.
Science has only the grip on your mind that you give it, and if you make it your master, to the exclusion of more important faith, then you cannot blame science, but only yourself.
Even the wine of the Eucharist will kill you if you drink too much of it, so don't.
the_Watchman: "Western science, whether it wishes to deny the past or not, is standing on the broad shoulders of those in the past who were exploring Gods creation engaged in a process of reverse engineering; i.e., examining and marveling at the DESIGN."
As it still does, and as has been acknowledged by most of our greatest modern scientists, from Albert Einstein & Max Plank to Stephen Hawkins.
Of course, God to any scientist tends to look more like a Super-Scientist than a Figure who so loved the world He sent His only begotten son.
But I don't know that they can help it, and don't necessarily hold it against them...
As for those scientists who claim there is no God, they have simply taken the methodological assumption of naturalism and promoted it to the higher philosophical level.
It's their right, of course, but any such claims are, by that same definition I keep mentioning, not scientific, and can be disputed with all the normal philosophical & theological arguments demonstrating God's existence.
But I don't know why people even argue the point, since it's not a matter of debate, but rather of experience and faith -- we chose to believe, very often, as Abraham Lincoln famously said:
the_Watchman: "BTW: Why dont you drop the snarkiness?
I have given this quite a bit more than a 'little thought' and I 'get' quite a bit more than you might think."
And yet, somehow you've arrived at mistaken conclusions, so just maybe I can help with that...
Watchman, you are exactly right. Helping anyone who observes these gears and still believes that a naturalistic process could have formed them is beyond our pay grade. LOL Bob
Eh, not helical...
>”How does the spider automatically know how to do that??”<