Meeting Abstract

98.5  Saturday, Jan. 7  Resilin and the morphological basis of flexible wing dynamics in flying insects MOUNTCASTLE, AM*; COMBES, SA; Harvard University

Flexible insect wings undergo considerable shape changes during flapping flight, and the importance of these emergent deformations to force production and aerodynamic efficiency has been the focus of many recent studies. Relatively few studies, however, have explored the morphological basis of flexible wing dynamics. Resilin, a protein with extremely high elastic efficiency, has been identified in the wings of several insects, often along natural fold lines or in mobile vein joints, driving speculation that it may play an important role in wing deformation. The potential contribution of resilin and other structural features to overall flexural stiffness, emergent wing deformations, and wing resilience has not been thoroughly characterized in any flying insect. Using flourescent microscopy, we mapped the distribution of resilin in the wings of several species, including the bumblebee, Bombus impatiens. We have developed a technique to artificially stiffen individual resilin joints and fold lines, allowing us to assess the relative contributions of different wing features to overall flexural stiffness and structural dynamics, with implications for flight performance. These results improve our understanding of insect wing functional morphology, and provide evolutionary insight into general principles of wing design.