Aphids are wingless individuals (just some of them have wings) that live on leaves and face their predators and parasitoids simply by dropping off plants. Indeed, in order to avoid immediate dangers, aphids do not have any aggressive behaviour, but they simply jump from the plants landing on their legs, regardless of their initial orientation on the plant, by rotating their body during the fall, like a defenestrated cat. As Moshe Inbar and colleagues reported in their paper in Current Biology:
This righting ability is intriguing, as wingless aphids have no specialized structures for maneuvering in mid-air. Instead, they assume a stereotypic posture which is aerodynamically stable only when the aphids fall right-side up. Consequently, the body passively rotates to the stable upright orientation, improving the chance of clinging to leaves encountered on the way down and lowering the danger of reaching the ground.
As you can see in the video below, an important role seems to be played by legs, since aphids without legs are even worse at landing than dead ones. According to this paper, alive aphids with their legs amputated by the scientists only landed the right way up 28% of the tim so that the air resistance on the aphids’ appendages is useful to rotate their bodies as they fall through air regardless of their starting orientation. The anatomy of aphid legs is so important that, differently from cats, aphids do not need to actively twist anything, but they simply rely on physics to passively rotate and land in a proper way… so that they are immediately able to grip the surface and resist further bouncing and rolling.
Aphids are not the unique insects tha can control their falls, since some arboreal ants of several different genera are able to control the direction of their descent when falling from a tree via postural changes, specifically involving the orientation of the legs and gaster (as you can read in Yanoviak et al. 2011).
These are not just funny behaviours, but these studies may yield insight into the origins of winged flight in insects since these primitive aerobatics could be the forerunners to true insect flight. Indeed, as reviewed by Yanoviak et al. (2009) these results suggest that a diversity of aerial behaviours preceded the appearance of wings in the history of insects supporting the hypothesis of a terrestrial origin for winged flight in insects.
Ribak, G., Gish, M., Weihs, D., & Inbar, M. (2013). Adaptive aerial righting during the escape dropping of wingless pea aphids Current Biology, 23 (3) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.010
Yanoviak SP, Kaspari M, & Dudley R (2009). Gliding hexapods and the origins of insect aerial behaviour. Biology letters, 5 (4), 510-2 PMID: 19324632
Yanoviak, S., Munk, Y., & Dudley, R. (2011). Evolution and Ecology of Directed Aerial Descent in Arboreal Ants Integrative and Comparative Biology, 51 (6), 944-956 DOI: 10.1093/icb/icr006