Small but mighty.
Farisenkov et al. Nature (2022)
The featherwing beetle Paratuposa placentis is hard to see without a microscope.
The featherwing beetle is so efficient that it bends the rules of flight in the animal kingdom.
Writing in the journal Nature on January 19, an international team of researchers mapped out the mysterious flight mechanics of P. placentis and other featherwing beetles.
Here are their flight patterns in action:
Instead of flapping its wings up and down, the beetle twists them in a figure-8 to pick up speed.
It also uses a wing-beating cycle of two power half strokes followed by two slower recovery strokes.
Though featherwing beetles are three times smaller than rove beetles, both bugs fly at the same pace.
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They can also accelerate twice as fast as carrion beetles, which average around 12 mm in size.
Typically, bugs that are larger fly faster, but the featherwing beetle throws a wrench in this theory.
To the bug, it’s just another evolutionary survival strategy. Now researchers want to know if it's common in the beetle world.
“If this flight style is common for miniature beetles, it may largely explain their worldwide abundance.”