How insects repair their ‘bones’

Researchers have discovered how insects heal their injured bodies. 

Adult desert locusts are able to repair damaged limbs to restore approximately two-thirds of their original strength. © Professor David Taylor
Adult desert locusts are able to repair damaged limbs to restore approximately two-thirds of their original strength. © Professor David Taylor

Insects repair their injured bodies by deploying a DIY cuticle repair kit after meeting with mishap, according to Trinity College Dublin researchers. 

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The first ever study to assess the biomechanics of mending in arthropods found that when an insect cuts one of its legs, it kicks into restoration mode by laying a patch of new cuticle underneath the affected area.

This new cuticle effectively functions as a bandage, which seals the wound and provides structural strength where it is required.

Lead author of the paper Professor David Taylor says, “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.

“They are able to restore most of the original strength, which allows them to keep using their limbs for normal activities.”

Repaired limbs provide around two-thirds of their original strength, which helps invertebrates survive in the wild. 

Did you know? 

  • Insects are the most diverse group of animals on Earth, with estimates suggesting different species make up as much as 90 per cent of the total species diversity on our planet. 
  • Insects play major roles in all ecosystems (sometimes negative, sometimes positive). For example, we rely on insects to carry out much of the pollination that feeds our growing population, while other insects act as pests or spread infectious diseases.
  • Insects are a regular part of the diet in many cultures, and, due to our growing global population and their high protein, mineral and fat content, many scientists believe they will need to be eaten as a staple in years to come.

What is the insect equivalent of blood? Find out the answer

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