Like Cats, Pea Aphids Always Land on their Feet

And you thought cats were the only ones..

Adaptive aerial righting during the escape dropping of wingless pea aphids

Pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) are small sap-sucking insects that live on plants in colonies containing mostly wingless individuals. They often escape predators, parasitoids and grazing mammalian herbivores by dropping off the plant [1,2], avoiding immediate danger but exposing themselves to ground predators, starvation and desiccation [3]. We show here that dropping pea aphids land on their legs, regardless of their initial orientation on the plant (like a defenestrated cat), by rotating their body during the fall. This righting ability is intriguing, as wingless aphids have no specialized structures for maneuvering in mid-air. Instead, they assume a stereotypic posture which is aerodynamically stable only when the aphids fall right-side up. Consequently, the body passively rotates to the stable upright orientation, improving the chance of clinging to leaves encountered on the way down and lowering the danger of reaching the ground.


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