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For the primary time, scientists have captured video of leeches leaping from leaves, settling a centuries-long dispute over the bloodsuckers’ capacity to leap.

The query of whether or not leeches can leap has been debated since rumours of the behaviour emerged within the late 1800s. There have been occasional sightings since, however that is the primary conclusive proof.

Mai Fahmy at Fordham College in New York documented this capacity in 2017 whereas doing fieldwork in Madagascar. Throughout a hike, she encountered a Chtonobdella leech (Chtonobdella fallax) – an earthworm-sized animal that lives solely in Madagascar.

“I squatted subsequent to it on the bottom, and I took out my telephone and began recording,” says Fahmy. “On the time, I didn’t realise what I had captured.” When she confirmed the video to her colleagues again in New York, Fahmy says all of them had the identical response: did that leech simply leap?

Six years later, Fahmy returned to Madagascar to attempt to file one other leaping leech and as soon as once more discovered fast success. This time, two leeches had been interacting earlier than one leapt from a leaf.

The leeches put together by anchoring their rear sucker to a floor – on this case, a leaf – and coiling the remainder of their physique backwards. Then, in a single fast movement, they launch their physique ahead, very like a placing cobra, unsticking their rear sucker and changing into airborne.

The sudden burst of motion could also be a tactic to land on or close to unsuspecting prey. The leap is a bit awkward, however “that is very clearly an energetic type of propulsion”, says Michael Tessler at Medgar Evers Faculty in New York.

Land-living leeches haven’t been intently studied, regardless of their capacity to assist conservationists monitor down hard-to-spot animals by analysing the blood from these creatures that the leeches have sipped. However discovering this capacity in two completely different people and places “means that this behaviour is extra frequent than we would have anticipated”, says Tessler. Based mostly on this proof and anecdotal tales from different areas, he suspects these will not be the world’s solely leaping leeches.

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