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Video: Cockroaches and Geckos 'Vanish' With Amazing Acrobatics

Credit: Courtesy of PolyPEDAL Lab

If you've ever seen a cockroach or a gecko disappear before your eyes, science now knows where they go. High-speed video of American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) and flat-tailed house geckos (Hemidactylus platyurus) running up a cardboard ramp reveals that both creatures barely slow as they approach the edge. But instead of launching into space like miniature ski-jumpers, they anchor their hind limbs and swing down, perching on the underside of the ledge. Cockroaches use claws on their rear legs like grappling hooks, while geckos use claws and sticky hairs on their back feet. Scientists filmed flat-tailed house geckos in a Singapore forest performing the same maneuvers on ferns. Both species experience 3 to 4 Gs during these acrobatics, the researchers report online today in PLoS ONE, similar to forces humans experience at the bottom of a bungee jump. They speculate that the rapid maneuver allows cockroaches and geckos to escape predators-like a squealing human armed with a newspaper.

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