Copepods are world's best animal jumpers

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Washington, May 12 (ANI): Copepods are tiny crustaceans that can accelerate to a speed of 500 body-lengths per second when they perform an escape jump, with greater muscle power than kangaroos, frogs and all other impressive animal leapers - making them the world's best animal jumpers.

Mackerel, herring, jellyfish and countless underwater predators feed on copepods. To avoid becoming dinner, the one- to two-millimeter-long crustaceans can accelerate to a speed of 500 body-lengths per second when they perform an escape jump.

"The trick is that copepods, unlike most other animals, have two different propulsion systems: one for swimming and one for jumping," lead author Thomas Kiorboe told Discovery News.

"The muscles of the two systems are not different in terms of performance, but the gearing of the two lever systems is different, with the jumping system tuned for maximum short-term force production," added Kiorboe, who is a professor in the Oceanography Section at the Technical University of Denmark's National Institute for Aquatic Resources.

The researchers think this astounding power is made possible by an optimal design of the swimming legs, copepod musculature and overall body shape.

"The body is torpedo-shaped and is similar among all (copepod) species," Kiorboe said.

Jumps, on the other hand, are performed using their four to five sets of legs that are sequentially kicked backward, using water as the "substrate." Their jumping prowess also enables them to capture their own prey in surprise attacks.

The study has been published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. (ANI)

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