By Wendy Langhans
Have you ever watched people walking? Did you notice how their arms swing in sync with their opposite legs? As the right leg steps forward, the left arm swings forward (and vice versa).
Moving our arms make us more stable and our walking more efficient “by counterbalancing our torso and hips and keeping them from twisting and bobbing too much.”
But what about creatures with legs but not arms, like a caterpillar? How do they maintain their stability, especially when crawling on a vertical surface? When you observe how a caterpillar crawls, you see it moves in waves, moving one segment at a time while keeping the rest of it’s body in contact with the surface. For those of you who swim, the movement resembles a butterfly stroke. For those of you who dance, visualize how the torso can undulate back and forth while krumping.
By using x-rays to observe the interior of the caterpillar as it moved on a treadmill, researchers at Tufts University have uncovered an new twist on caterpillar movement. It turns out that, at least for the Tobacco Hawk Moth Caterpillar, their interior gut moves in sync with the front and tail ends of their body, but almost a full step ahead of the middle segments of their exterior body. To visualize this, imagine a piston moving inside a cylinder, the piston moves while the cylinder remains stationary. To watch a video of the caterpillar’s interior gut movement, go here.
The scientists aren’t sure why this gut movement evolved; they suggest it may have something to do with maintaining stability. But I’m not so sure about that – perhaps those caterpillars simply wanted to bust a move.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, August 7, 6:30-8:30 AM. Morning stroll. Pico Canyon. Get out in the park before the heat of the day. Beginners are welcome. Bring water and wear closed-toed shoes. Meet in the parking lot at Mentryville. 2 hrs. For map, click here.
Saturday, August 21, 8:00-10:00 AM. Morning Bird Hike at Towsley Canyon. Bring water and your binoculars and wear closed-toed shoes. Meet at the park entrance. 2 hours. For a map, click here.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, August 4, 11, 18 & 25.
Saturday mornings, August 14 & 28.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail, go to www.LAMountains.com.