Flies are the F-16s of insects thanks to tiny elastic springs that turn their wings into efficient motors that recycle energy.
That’s the finding of University of Chicago biologist Michael Dickinson, who tethered tiny fruit flies to figure out how flies fly.
Flight requires up to 100 times the energy consumption of an animal at rest, as insects sometimes beat their wings 1,000 times a second. In comparison, athletes running the 100-yard dash use only 15 times the energy of a person at rest.
Scientists have long wondered how insects keep up that frenzy of motion. They efficiently capture and reuse kinetic energy, Dickinson said.
“Our findings suggest that insects in general must be using elastic storage as a means of minimizing energetic flight costs,” he said.
Insect wing hinges contain the protein resilin, the most elastic biological material known, he said.