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Volume 602 Issue 7895, 3 February 2022

Built for speed

The cover shows the feather-like wings of the tiny beetle Paratuposa placentis. How fast an animal can fly is usually dictated by its size: the larger the animal, the faster it flies. But at just 395 micrometres big, P. placentis bucks this trend by flying as fast as insects three times its size. In this week’s issue, Alexey Polilov and his colleagues reveal how it achieves such a feat. The researchers generated 3D reconstructions of the structure and motion of the beetle’s wings. They found that the insect moves its light, bristled wings in a very broad figure-of-eight loop and that the overall amplitude of its wing strokes is increased. The team suggests that the adaptations could help to explain the evolutionary success of extremely small insects.

Cover image: Alexey Polilov

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