Diversity of Cuticular Micro- and Nanostructures on Insects: Properties, Functions, and Potential Applications

Annu Rev Entomol. 2017 Jan 31;62:185-205. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-031616-035020.


Insects exhibit a fascinating and diverse range of micro- and nanoarchitectures on their cuticle. Beyond the spectacular beauty of such minute structures lie surfaces evolutionarily modified to act as multifunctional interfaces that must contend with a hostile, challenging environment, driving adaption so that these can then become favorable. Numerous cuticular structures have been discovered this century; and of equal importance are the properties, functions, and potential applications that have been a key focus in many recent studies. The vast range of insect structuring, from the most simplistic topographies to the most elegant and geometrically complex forms, affords us with an exhaustive library of natural templates and free technologies to borrow, replicate, and employ for a range of applications. Of particular importance are structures that imbue cuticle with antiwetting properties, self-cleaning abilities, antireflection, enhanced color, adhesion, and antimicrobial and specific cell-attachment properties.

Keywords: adhesion; exoskeleton; microstructure; nanostructure; optics; wetting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Shells / physiology*
  • Animal Shells / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Insecta / ultrastructure
  • Surface Properties