Animals exhibiting ultra-fast motions — for example prey-capture strikes, jumps, or projectile launchings — typically achieve accelerations and velocities that substantially exceed the capabilities of muscle alone. Across the tree of life, organisms such as trap-jaw ants, mantis shrimp, fleas, ballistospores, carnivorous plants and many other systems leverage latch-mediated spring actuation (LaMSA) to overcome the mechanical power limits of the energy source. LaMSA enables a physical and temporal separation between slow, low mechanical power spring loading and fast, high mechanical power spring unloading. Many engineered devices, old and new, also use LaMSA to overcome common limitations of traditional motors. Examples range from archery bows to jumping robots. While biological and engineered LaMSA examples may appear quite different, they are grounded in a common set of underlying principles. Advancing the understanding of these principles is critical for navigating the complex, multidisciplinary space of LaMSA. These principles encourage and inform biological discovery while also catalyzing advanced technologies that are repeated-use, efficient, and robust for diverse uses and environments.

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