Cicadas Can Jet ‘Fluids’ Through ‘Small Orifices,’ Study Finds


Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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Cicadas can excrete their “fluids” through “small orifices” in a dynamic that challenges “existing paradigms in animal waste excretion,” an article in a scientific journal found Saturday.

Elio Challita and M. Saad Bhamla were the two scientists who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), which observed that cicadas appear to be able to jet their “fluids” in a way that the current paradigm that centers on mammal excretions would have difficulty with.

The challenged model “suggests jetting is exclusive to animals weighing over 3 kg” but the scientists noted that cicadas, who weigh about 2 kg, “form fluidic jets using some of the smallest known orifice diameters.” The two hypothesized in their paper that their larger body size eases the cost of jetting and allows them “to expel” a greater amount of fluids. This ability to the cicada highlighted a hereto “unexplored aspect of their biology,” the paper read. (RELATED: Experts Warn About Upcoming ‘Cicada-geddon’)

Although scientists are not completely sure why cicadas eject fluid, the study noted that the insects often use liquid jets for self-defense and constructing underground hallways. The researchers also suggested that cicadas used their excretions to help digest food and preserve energy.

One of the scientists who assisted with the study, Bhamla, went on CNN Sunday and let a cicada loose in the studio. “They fly for mating … it must have a sense for acoustic cues. That was a rare treat that you really observed live,” the biophysicist said. Bhamla tweeted out a video of the broadcasted flight.

“Cicada News Network,” Danny Freeman, a CNN correspondent, tweeted of the incident.

Cicadas have long challenged “numerous paradigms” in the field of biology as they have 17-year development periods (which stands as among the longest development periods for an insect), have among the longest wingspans of “the largest insects” and can “produce sounds as loud as chainsaws (100 dB), making them the loudest insects,” the study observed.