Insects don't have bones like mammals or reptiles, but they remain sturdy nonetheless, and are even able to repair any damage they suffer. Now, scientists have discovered how insects build internal bandages to repair what is effectively their broken "bones."
Sometimes insects are damaged; perhaps they narrowly escaped a predator, or maybe they were hit by a car. Whatever the case, though, insects can injure their internal structure. In this case, though, the researchers found that it can actually repair itself.
When an insect is injured, it immediately goes into repair mode. It lays a patch of new cuticle beneath the affected area, which effectively functions as a bandage that seals the wound and provides structural strength.
"Unlike us, insects cannot completely repair their 'bones,' but it turns out that by using this cuticle bandage they can do a pretty good job," said David Taylor, lead author of the new study at Trinity College Dublin. "They are able to restore most of the original strength, which allows them to keep using their limbs for normal activities."
While insects have a problem completely repairing their limbs, they still do a good job of it. In this case, the scientists found that adult desert locusts could actually repair damaged limbs to restore about two-thirds of their original strength.
Regaining strength in limbs is extremely important when it comes to survival in the wild. In locusts, it allows them to jump far enough to avoid predators and also travel to find food. This allows them to survive for longer and successfully reproduce.
"There has been some previous work to show that-like humans-insects will bleed when you cut them, and the blood will clot to plug the hole," said Eoin Parle, one of the researchers who conducted the new experiments on the insects. "But nobody had tested the strength of these repair patches until now."
The findings reveal a bit more about how insects manage to survive and repair themselves. This is particularly important to note when considering how these creatures manage to survive and when determining what mechanisms these creatures are capable of using.
The findings are published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.