Tight turns in stick insects

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2009 Mar;195(3):299-309. doi: 10.1007/s00359-008-0406-3. Epub 2009 Jan 10.


We investigated insects Carausius morosus walking whilst hanging upside down along a narrow 3 mm horizontal beam. At the end of the beam, the animal takes a 180 degrees turn. This is a difficult situation because substrate area is small and moves relative to the body during the turn. We investigated how leg movements are organised during this turn. A non-contact of either front leg appears to indicate the end of the beam. However, a turn can only begin if the hind legs stand in an appropriate position relative to each other; the outer hind leg must not be placed posterior to the inner hind leg. When starting the turn, both front legs are lifted and usually held in a relatively stable position and then the inner middle leg performs a swing-and-search movement: The leg begins a swing, which is continued by a searching movement to the side and to the rear, and eventually grasps the beam. At the same time the body is turned usually being supported by the outer middle leg and both hind legs. Then front legs followed by the outer middle leg reach the beam. A scheme describing the turns based on a few simple behavioural elements is proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Extremities / physiology
  • Individuality
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*