Cambridge University scientists have solved the mystery of how fleas jump so far and so fast.

It was known that the energy to catapult a flea over a distance up to 200 times its body length lay in a spring-like structure in its body. But scientists did not understand how they transferred this energy to the ground in order to jump.

High-speed footage now reveals that the secret lies in the way fleas use their hind legs as multi-jointed levers. This "lever-effect" allows fleas to drive their feet onto the ground, and the sudden release of the "coiled spring" hurls the insect forwards and upwards, scientists report in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

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