A mechanical model for diversified insect wing margin shapes

J Theor Biol. 2017 Aug 1;427:17-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2017.05.026. Epub 2017 May 24.


The wings in different insect species are morphologically distinct with regards to their size, outer contour (margin) shape, venation, and pigmentation. The basis of the diversity of wing margin shapes remains unknown, despite the fact that gene networks governing the Drosophila wing development have been well characterised. Among the different types of wing margin shapes, smoothly curved contour is the most frequently found and implies the existence of a highly organised, multicellular mechanical structure. Here, we developed a mechanical model for diversified insect wing margin shapes, in which non-uniform bending stiffness of the wing margin is considered. We showed that a variety of spatial distribution of the bending stiffness could reproduce diverse wing margin shapes. Moreover, the inference of the distribution of the bending stiffness from experimental images indicates a common spatial profile among insects tested. We further studied the effect of the intrinsic tension of the wing blade on the margin shape and on the inferred bending stiffness. Finally, we implemented the bending stiffness of the wing margin in the cell vertex model of the wing blade, and confirmed that the hybrid model retains the essential feature of the margin model. We propose that in addition to morphogenetic processes in the wing blade, the spatial profile of the bending stiffness in the wing margin can play a pivotal role in shaping insect wings.

Keywords: Insect; Mechanics; Morphogenesis; Wing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / anatomy & histology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Wings, Animal / anatomy & histology*