March 11, 2014

Tiger Beetles Hunt With Super-Speed, Causing Them to Go Blind

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By SHIRA POLAN

The tiger beetle seems to come straight from a comic book, with a number of “superpowers” that make it one of the most successful hunters in the animal kingdom.

According to Prof. Cole Gilbert, entomology, the beetle can run up to five miles per hour, covering 120 times its body length per second. To put this into perspective, the average cheetah, the fastest land animal in terms of absolute speed, covers 13 times its body length per second.

The tiger beetle runs so quickly it can no longer see its surroundings or its prey, Gilbert said. As a result, the insect must stop mid-sprint to relocate its target before resuming the chase.

“Their behavior is really interesting in that they run with little jerky, stop-and-go movements, and that’s not the way most creatures move,” Gilbert said. “I wanted to figure out why they were doing that.”

Courtesy of Daniel Zurek, entomologyPrecise predator | Prof. Cole Gilbert, entomology, and Prof. Jane Wang, physics, study the high-speed hunting technique of the tiger beetle, which can run 120 times its body length in one second. The beetle runs so quickly that it temporarily goes blind. To cope, it uses rigid antennae in order to navigate around obstacles, according to Gilbert. It is shown here eating another insect.

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