Synopsis top ↑
The authors present a thorough study on the distribution of resilin-bearing wing vein joints in wings of Odonata. 22 species of 20 different families of dragonflies and damselflies, showing various wing morphologies and flight kinematics, are examined and reveal interesting evolutionary trends.
Dragonflies and damselflies show an exceptional high lift production and are some of the most maneuverable flying insects. The important role of their corrugated wing profile in increasing lift production has been shown in various studies. As odonate wings lack internal muscles, their aerodynamic performance relies on passive deformations, such as pleat angle widening and camber formation. The rubber-like protein resilin has been shown to play a crucial role in wing joint flexibility. Thus, it may be assumed that the specific distribution of either stiff or flexible, resilin-bearing vein joints may influence the overall wing deformation during flight.
Using fluorescence light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, the dorsal and ventral wing sides of different species are compared with respect to the distribution patterns of four types of vein joints, five types of resilin patches, and joint-associated spines. The results reveal a significant difference between dragonflies and damselflies. Variations of the distribution patterns suggest a classification into five different pattern groups. Their occurrence within the two suborders shows some evolutionary trends and gives insight into the wing functionality. In particular, we discussed how the combination of joint morphology, kinematics, and wing morphology may allow different passive wing deformations during flight.
This study, generously illustrated with 53 mostly coloured figures is of great interest to biologists studying insect flight, functional morphology, and evolution of Odonata. Furthermore, the described distribution patterns of different vein joints in combination with wing shape and flight kinematics may possibly inspire their biomimetic imitation in micro air vehicles (MAV).