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Biomechanics of Substrate Boring by Fig Wasps: Role of Zinc in Insect Cuticle

Kundanati, L and Gundiah, N (2013) Biomechanics of Substrate Boring by Fig Wasps: Role of Zinc in Insect Cuticle. In: INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY, 53 (1). E118.

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There are many biomechanical challenges that a female insect must meet to successfully oviposit and ensure her evolutionary success. These begin with selection of a suitable substrate through which the ovipositor must penetrate without itself buckling or fracturing. The second phase corresponds to steering and manipulating the ovipositor to deliver eggs at desired locations. Finally, the insect must retract her ovipositor fast to avoid possible predation and repeat this process multiple times during her lifetime. From a materials perspective, insect oviposition is a fascinating problem and poses many questions. Specifically, are there diverse mechanisms that insects use to drill through hard substrates without itself buckling or fracturing? What are the structure-property relationships in the ovipositor material? These are some of the questions we address with a model system consisting of a parasitoid fig wasp - fig substrate system. To characterize the structure of ovipositors, we use scanning electron microscopy with a detector to quantify the presence of transition elements. Our results show that parasitoid ovipositors have teeth like structures on their tips and contain high amounts of zinc as compared to remote regions. Sensillae are present along the ovipositor to aid detection of chemical species and mechanical deformations. To quantify the material properties of parasitoid ovipositors, we use an atomic force microscope and show that tip regions have higher modulus as compared to remote regions. Finally, we use videography to show that ovipositors buckle during oviposition and estimate the forces needed to cause substrate boring based on Euler buckling analysis. Such methods may be useful for the design of functionally graded surgical tools.

Item Type: Editorials/Short Communications
Additional Information: Copyright for this article belongs to the OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, USA.
Department/Centre: Division of Mechanical Sciences > Mechanical Engineering
Date Deposited: 14 May 2013 07:12
Last Modified: 14 May 2013 07:12
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/46488

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