The adhesive prey-capture apparatus of the representatives of the rove beetle genus Stenus (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae) is an outstanding example of biological adhesive systems. This unique prey-capture device is used for catching elusive prey by combining (i) hierarchically structured adhesive outgrowths, (ii) an adhesive secretion, and (iii) a network of cuticular fibres within the pad. The outgrowths arise from a pad-like cuticle and are completely immersed within the secretion. To date, the forces generated during the predatory strike of these beetles have only been estimated theoretically. In the present study, we used force transducers to measure both the compressive and adhesive forces during the predatory strike of two Stenus species. The experiments revealed that the compressive forces are low, ranging from 0.10 mN (Stenus bimaculatus) to 0.18 mN (Stenus juno), whereas the corresponding adhesive forces attain up to 1.0 mN in S. juno and 1.08 mN in S. bimaculatus. The tenacity or adhesive strength (adhesive force per apparent unit area) amounts to 51.9 kPa (S. bimaculatus) and 69.7 kPa (S. juno). S. juno beetles possess significantly smaller pad surface areas than S. bimaculatus but seem to compensate for this disadvantage by generating higher compressive forces. Consequently, S. juno beetles reach almost identical adhesive properties and an equal prey-capture success in attacks on larger prey. The possible functions of the various parts of the adhesive system during the adhesive prey-capture process are discussed in detail.
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