Concept: Insect wing
Investigation of hindwing folding in ladybird beetles by artificial elytron transplantation and microcomputed tomography
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 3 years ago
Ladybird beetles are high-mobility insects and explore broad areas by switching between walking and flying. Their excellent wing transformation systems enabling this lifestyle are expected to provide large potential for engineering applications. However, the mechanism behind the folding of their hindwings remains unclear. The reason is that ladybird beetles close the elytra ahead of wing folding, preventing the observation of detailed processes occurring under the elytra. In the present study, artificial transparent elytra were transplanted on living ladybird beetles, thereby enabling us to observe the detailed wing-folding processes. The result revealed that in addition to the abdominal movements mentioned in previous studies, the edge and ventral surface of the elytra, as well as characteristic shaped veins, play important roles in wing folding. The structures of the wing frames enabling this folding process and detailed 3D shape of the hindwing were investigated using microcomputed tomography. The results showed that the tape spring-like elastic frame plays an important role in the wing transformation mechanism. Compared with other beetles, hindwings in ladybird beetles are characterized by two seemingly incompatible properties: (i) the wing rigidity with relatively thick veins and (ii) the compactness in stored shapes with complex crease patterns. The detailed wing-folding process revealed in this study is expected to facilitate understanding of the naturally optimized system in this excellent deployable structure.
During the lifetime of a flying insect, its wings are subjected to mechanical forces and deformations for millions of cycles. Defects in the micrometre thin membranes or veins may reduce the insect’s flight performance. How do insects prevent crack related material failure in their wings and what role does the characteristic vein pattern play? Fracture toughness is a parameter, which characterises a material’s resistance to crack propagation. Our results show that, compared to other body parts, the hind wing membrane of the migratory locust S. gregaria itself is not exceptionally tough (1.04±0.25 MPa√m). However, the cross veins increase the wing’s toughness by 50% by acting as barriers to crack propagation. Using fracture mechanics, we show that the morphological spacing of most wing veins matches the critical crack length of the material (1132 µm). This finding directly demonstrates how the biomechanical properties and the morphology of locust wings are functionally correlated in locusts, providing a mechanically ‘optimal’ solution with high toughness and low weight. The vein pattern found in insect wings thus might inspire the design of more durable and lightweight artificial ‘venous’ wings for micro-air-vehicles. Using the vein spacing as indicator, our approach might also provide a basis to estimate the wing properties of endangered or extinct insect species.
The concerted evolution of morphological and behavioral specializations has compelling examples in ant castes. Unique to ants is a marked divergence between winged queens and wingless workers, but morphological specializations for behaviors on the ground have been overlooked. We analyzed thorax morphology of queens and workers in species from 21 of the 25 ant subfamilies. We uncovered unique skeletomuscular modifications in workers that presumably increase power and flexibility of head-thorax articulation, emphasizing that workers are not simply wingless versions of queens. We also identified two distinct types of queens and showed repeated evolutionary associations with strategies of colony foundation. Solitary founding queens that hunt have a more worker-like thorax. Our results reveal that ants invest in the relative size of thorax segments according to their tasks. Versatility of head movements allows for better manipulation of food and objects, which arguably contributed to the ants' ecological and evolutionary success. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01539.001.
Mantodeans or praying mantises are flying insects and well known for their raptorial behaviour, mainly performed by their first pair of thoracic appendages. We describe here a new, exceptionally preserved specimen of the early mantodean Santanmantis axelrodi Grimaldi, 2003 from the famous 110 million years old Crato Formation, Brazil. The incomplete specimen preserves important morphological details, which were not known in this specific form before for this species or any other representative of Mantodea. Unlike in modern representatives or other fossil forms of Mantodea not only the first pair of thoracic appendages shows adaptations for predation. The femora of the second pair of thoracic appendages bear numerous strong, erect spines which appear to have a sharp tip, with this strongly resembling the spines of the first pair of thoracic appendages. This indicates that individuals of S. axelrodi likely used at least two pairs of thoracic appendages to catch prey. This demonstrates that the prey-catching behaviour was more diverse in early forms of praying mantises than anticipated.
Based on studies of the forewings of two beetles, Allomyrina dichotoma and Prosopocoilus inclinatus, this paper reviews and identifies the potential benefits of studying the structure of the beetle forewing and the associated development of lightweight biomimetic composite materials. The forewings of both beetle species consist of an integrated border frame structure and a large center part with distributed trabecular supports in the hollow core. The forewings of the male A. dichotoma are constructed to reflect a lightweight honeycomb design. However, the forewings of P. inclinatus are a durable structure. The biological significance of these structures is also discussed. This work proposes an integrated honeycomb structure inspired by the beetle forewing. A series of biological models are also proposed for lightweight integrated honeycomb structures and durable sandwich structures with a trabecular core, which are intended to establish a new direction in the development of biomimetic composite materials.
Loss of the flight ability and wing reduction has been reported for many taxa of Coleoptera. If elytra are closed, their roots are clenched between the tergum and the pleuron, forces applied to the elytra can not be transmitted to the field of campaniform sensilla situated on the root. That is why it is plausible to assume that the field becomes redundant in non-flying beetles. We examined the relationships between the hind wing reduction and characters of this mechanosensory field in beetles of six families. We measured the size of the elytron, that of the hind wing and counted the number of sensilla in the sensory field. Mesopterous non-flying beetles retain one half to one third of sensilla present in macropterous species of the same body size. Further reduction of the sensory field in brachypterous species is obvious, but sensilla are still present in insects with strongly reduced wings, as long as their elytra are separable and mesothoracic axillaries are present. Complete loss of sensilla coincides with the existence of a permanent sutural lock. However, some beetles with permanently locked elytra and absence of axillaries still retain few campaniform sensilla. A very special case of an extreme wing modification in feather-wing beetles is considered. No sensilla were revealed either on the root of the elytron or on the basal segment of such fringed wings in flying ptiliid species.
The gill and paranotal lobe theories of insect wing evolution were both proposed in the 1870s. For most of the 20th century, the paranotal lobe theory was more widely accepted, probably due to the fundamentally terrestrial tracheal respiratory system; in the 1970s, some researchers advocated for an elaborated gill (“pleural appendage”) theory. Lacking transition fossils, neither theory could be definitively rejected. Winged insects are abundant in the fossil record from the mid-Carboniferous, but insect fossils are vanishingly rare earlier, and all earlier fossils are from primitively wingless insects. The enigmatic, isolated mandibles of Rhyniognatha (early Devonian) hint that pterygotus may have been present much earlier, but the question remains open. In the late 20th century, researchers used models to study the interaction of body and protowing size on solar warming and gliding abilities, and stability and glide effectiveness of many tiny adjustable winglets versus a single, large pair of immobile winglets. Living stoneflies inspired the surface-skimming theory, which provides a mechanism to bridge between aquatic gills and flapping wings. The serendipitously discovered phenomenon of directed aerial descent suggests a likely route to the early origin of insect flight. It provides a biomechanically feasible sequence from guided falls to fully-powered flight.
Dipteran flies are amongst the smallest and most agile of flying animals. Their wings are driven indirectly by large power muscles, which cause cyclical deformations of the thorax that are amplified through the intricate wing hinge. Asymmetric flight manoeuvres are controlled by 13 pairs of steering muscles acting directly on the wing articulations. Collectively the steering muscles account for <3% of total flight muscle mass, raising the question of how they can modulate the vastly greater output of the power muscles during manoeuvres. Here we present the results of a synchrotron-based study performing micrometre-resolution, time-resolved microtomography on the 145 Hz wingbeat of blowflies. These data represent the first four-dimensional visualizations of an organism's internal movements on sub-millisecond and micrometre scales. This technique allows us to visualize and measure the three-dimensional movements of five of the largest steering muscles, and to place these in the context of the deforming thoracic mechanism that the muscles actuate. Our visualizations show that the steering muscles operate through a diverse range of nonlinear mechanisms, revealing several unexpected features that could not have been identified using any other technique. The tendons of some steering muscles buckle on every wingbeat to accommodate high amplitude movements of the wing hinge. Other steering muscles absorb kinetic energy from an oscillating control linkage, which rotates at low wingbeat amplitude but translates at high wingbeat amplitude. Kinetic energy is distributed differently in these two modes of oscillation, which may play a role in asymmetric power management during flight control. Structural flexibility is known to be important to the aerodynamic efficiency of insect wings, and to the function of their indirect power muscles. We show that it is integral also to the operation of the steering muscles, and so to the functional flexibility of the insect flight motor.
X-ray computed tomography is used to identify a unique example of fossilized phoresy in 16 million-year-old Miocene Dominican amber involving a springtail being transported by a mayfly. It represents the first evidence (fossil or extant) of phoresy in adult Ephemeroptera and only the second record in Collembola (the first is also preserved in amber). This is the first record of Collembola using winged insects for dispersal. This fossil predicts the occurrence of similar behaviour in living springtails and helps explain the global distribution of Collembola today.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published about 6 years ago
Foldable wings of insects are the ultimate deployable structures and have attracted the interest of aerospace engineering scientists as well as entomologists. Rove beetles are known to fold their wings in the most sophisticated ways that have right-left asymmetric patterns. However, the specific folding process and the reason for this asymmetry remain unclear. This study reveals how these asymmetric patterns emerge as a result of the folding process of rove beetles. A high-speed camera was used to reveal the details of the wing-folding movement. The results show that these characteristic asymmetrical patterns emerge as a result of simultaneous folding of overlapped wings. The revealed folding mechanisms can achieve not only highly compact wing storage but also immediate deployment. In addition, the right and left crease patterns are interchangeable, and thus each wing internalizes two crease patterns and can be folded in two different ways. This two-way folding gives freedom of choice for the folding direction to a rove beetle. The use of asymmetric patterns and the capability of two-way folding are unique features not found in artificial structures. These features have great potential to extend the design possibilities for all deployable structures, from space structures to articles of daily use.