What’s the best way to move – springs or muscles?

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What's the best way to move - springs or muscles?


  Last updated May 8, 2018 at 10:23 am


A new study has revealed why some animals use muscles to generate force, while others rely on a spring-like systems and stored energy.

Examining over 100 species’ movement systems, they explained why systems that amplify power (those involving a spring), tend to be small – it turns out, above a certain size, a spring does not improve output and an organism is best served by using muscle.

As well, spring-based power amplification was found to have lower of efficacy. As animals get smaller, so do their springs, but the springs simultaneously become stiffer, allowing them to provide more force. This explains why smaller insects can generally jump higher than larger insects. There is a body mass point however where the springs become too stiff for the animal to load, and so jumping performance drops dramatically.

These upper and lower limits of efficiency of the spring systems may explain why the smallest and largest insects tend jump more slowly than midsized insects.

The research has been published in Science


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