ScienceShot: How an Aphid Is Like a Cat

Cats always land on their feet, the old saying goes, but felines have nothing on the pea aphid. A new study shows that the tiny crop pest, Acyrthosiphon pisum, is a champion at landing right-side up after a fall, speedily rotating into a feet-down position after falling for 0.2 seconds or less. Researchers shot high-speed video of the insects as they plummeted off a plant to escape predatory ladybirds and as they were dropped from tweezers. In today's issue of Current Biology, the team reports that falling aphids all shifted their antennae slightly forward and up and moved their hind legs slightly backward and up. Modeling showed that the air resistance against the creatures' splayed appendages flipped them belly-down for a safe landing, allowing the aphids to scuttle away.

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