The role of adhesion in prey capture and predator defence in arthropods

Arthropod Struct Dev. 2004 Jan;33(1):3-30. doi: 10.1016/j.asd.2003.10.002.


Adhesive devices are used by arthropods not only in terrestrial locomotion but also in prey capture and predator defence. We argue that the physical mechanisms involved in both these contexts must mainly be capillarity and the viscosity of an adhesive secretion, whereas other mechanisms, such as friction or intermolecular forces, are of minor importance. Adhesive prey-capture devices might function as passive devices or might be actively extended toward the prey, sometimes in a very rapid manner. Adhesive mechanisms used for predator defence might involve firm adhesion to the substratum or the discharge of a sticky secretion to immobilize the appendages of the opponent. We review the occurrence of adhesive devices as employed in both functional contexts across the Arthropoda and argue that these mechanisms are of particular importance for slow-moving and relatively clumsy life forms. We discuss three case studies in more detail. (1) Loricera larvae (Carabidae) use galeae with an extremely flexible cuticle in combination with an adhesive secretion. (2) Adult Stenus species (Staphylinidae) employ two highly flexible paraglossae that are covered by an adhesive emulsion of lipid droplets dispersed in an aqueous proteinaceous liquid. (3) Springtails often adhere to the mouthparts, the antennae, the legs, or other parts of the integument of Stenus larvae before being captured with the mandibles.