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Wings fold multiple times without wear: beetles


Longhorned beetle / KarlR / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

Wings of beetles fold multiple times without wear or fatigue by having resilin in key joints.

"Beetles use their fore-wings for a different purpose altogether. These creatures are the heavy armoured tanks of the insect world and they spend a great deal of their time on the ground, barging their way through the vegetable litter, scrabbling in the soil or gnawing into wood. Such activities could easily damage delicate wings. The beetles protect theirs by turning the front pair into stiff thick covers which fit neatly over the top of the abdomen. The wings are stowed neatly beneath, carefully and ingeniously folded." (Attenborough 1979:79)

"This account shows the distribution of elastic elements in hind wings in the scarabaeid Pachnoda marginata and coccinellid Coccinella septempunctata (both Coleoptera). Occurrence of resilin, a rubber–like protein, in some mobile joints together with data on wing unfolding and flight kinematics suggest that resilin in the beetle wing has multiple functions. First, the distribution pattern of resilin in the wing correlates with the particular folding pattern of the wing. Second, our data show that resilin occurs at the places where extra elasticity is needed, for example in wing folds, to prevent material damage during repeated folding and unfolding. Third, resilin provides the wing with elasticity in order to be deformable by aerodynamic forces. This may result in elastic energy storage in the wing." (Haas et al. 2000:1375)
About the inspiring organism

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Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Creation of any material that needs to be repeatedly folded and unfolded with minimal wear, such as tents, clothing, folding chairs, self-deployable structures.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Manufacturing, construction, clothing

Evolutionary Biomaterials Group

Max-Planck-Institut für Metallforschung
Functional Morphology and Biomechanics group
Stanislav N. Gorb
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Attenborough, D. 1979. Life on earth. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. 319 p.
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Haas F; Gorb S; Blickhan R. 2000. The function of resilin in beetle wings. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 267(1451): 1375-1381.
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