I recently came across the strange factoid that all animals that can jump do so to roughly the same height (within an order of magnitude). The argument was that the work done by muscles in a single contraction is proportional to their mass, and the amount of energy required to jump is also proportional to their mass. The secondary issue of power could be solved by an approach like the click-beetle uses, where they store the energy in their shell slowly, then release it quickly.
I'm an engineer, so my first thought is that a ratchet could be used to circumvent this sort of limit. If I could cycle a muscle 2-3 times and use a ratchet to store that energy, I could release 3x more energy and jump higher. As an engineer, it seems like a no-brainer.
But I can't seem to find any biological example of such a ratchet. The closest I could find was the muscle proteins that cause contraction in the first place. But that didn't fit the image of the structure I cared about because it was literally millions of these ratchets and the result felt "too smooth" for the concept I was searching for.
So my question is whether biology has a structure that operates like:
- Powered by a muscle that gets to contract multiple times (or another chemical process which cycles a small number of times. 2-10 is fine, 10 million is not)
- Stores the energy of each contraction
- Releases that energy in one burst.
Mentally I'm thinking of a ratchet that I could crank down with 3-4 pulls of a lever, and then release all that energy at once, but I'm open to other biological structures which meet the above requirements.