Strange things are afoot

Focus-Science and Technology - - Eye Opener - PHOTO: STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/RPS

This alien-like ap­pendage is the foot, or tar­sus, of a mos­quito. While mozzies’ legs may not look like much to the naked eye, this scan­ning elec­tron mi­cro­graph im­age was taken at 800 times mag­ni­fi­ca­tion to re­veal the tar­sus’ in­tri­cate mi­crostruc­ture. In­cred­i­bly, each of the bizarre-look­ing for­ma­tions serves a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose.

“The two tarsal claws that are clearly vis­i­ble al­low the mos­quito to grip onto most sur­faces, like walls, plants or your leg. The sur­round­ing struc­tures, the ‘socks’, act as buf­fers, al­low­ing the mos­quito to land gen­tly and ac­cu­rately on all man­ner of sur­faces,” says BBC pre­sen­ter and en­to­mol­o­gist Prof Adam Hart. “It isn’t just about phys­i­cal prow­ess – the hairs on the feet also act as sen­sory struc­tures, ef­fec­tively al­low­ing them to taste with their feet!”

The im­age is one of the top 100 se­lected to tour the UK as part of the Royal Pho­to­graphic So­ci­ety’s In­ter­na­tional Im­ages for Science. Visit rps-science.

org for more de­tails.

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