Insect wing

Last updated
IC Gomphidae wing.jpg
Original veins and wing posture of a dragonfly
Hoverflies mating midair.jpg
Hoverflies hovering to mate
A cockchafer's hardened forewings raised, hindwings unfolding
Bumblebee's wing. Bumblebee's wing.jpg
Bumblebee's wing.

Insect wings are adult outgrowths of the insect exoskeleton that enable insects to fly. They are found on the second and third thoracic segments (the mesothorax and metathorax), and the two pairs are often referred to as the forewings and hindwings, respectively, though a few insects lack hindwings, even rudiments. The wings are strengthened by a number of longitudinal veins, which often have cross-connections that form closed "cells" in the membrane (extreme examples include the dragonflies and lacewings). The patterns resulting from the fusion and cross-connection of the wing veins are often diagnostic for different evolutionary lineages and can be used for identification to the family or even genus level in many orders of insects.


Physically, some insects move their flight muscles directly, others indirectly. In insects with direct flight, the wing muscles directly attach to the wing base, so that a small downward movement of the wing base lifts the wing itself upward. Those insects with indirect flight have muscles that attach to and deform the thorax, causing the wings to move as well.

The wings are present in only one sex (often the male) in some groups such as velvet ants and Strepsiptera, or are selectively lost in "workers" of social insects such as ants and termites. Rarely, the female is winged but the male not, as in fig wasps. In some cases, wings are produced only at particular times in the life cycle, such as in the dispersal phase of aphids. Wing structure and colouration often vary with morphs, such as in the aphids, migratory phases of locusts and polymorphic butterflies. At rest, the wings may be held flat, or folded a number of times along specific patterns; most typically, it is the hindwings which are folded, but in a few groups such as the vespid wasps, it is the forewings.

The evolutionary origin of the insect wing is debated. During the 19th century, the question of insect wing evolution originally rested on two main positions. One position postulated insect wings evolved from pre-existing structures, while the second proposed insect wings were entirely novel formations. [1] [2] The “novel” hypothesis suggested that insect wings did not form from pre-existing ancestral appendages but rather as outgrowths from the insect body wall. [3]

Long since, research on insect wing origins has built on the “pre-existing structures” position that was originally proposed in the 19th century. [2] Recent literature has pointed to several ancestral structures as being important to the origin of insect wings. Among these include: gills, respiratory appendages of legs, and lateral (paranotal) and posterolateral projections of the thorax to name a few. [4]

According to more current literature, possible candidates include gill-like structures, the paranotal lobe, and the crustacean tergal plate. The latter is based on recent insect genetic research which indicates that insects are pan-crustacean arthropods with a direct crustacean ancestor and shared genetic mechanisms of limb development. [3] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Other theories of the origin of insect wings are the paranotal lobe theory, the gill theory and the dual theory of insect wing evolution. These theories postulate that wings either developed from paranotal lobes, extensions of the thoracic terga; [5] that they are modifications of movable abdominal gills as found on aquatic naiads of mayflies; [5] or that insect wings arose from the fusion of pre-existing endite and exite structures each with pre-existing articulation and tracheation. [9] [10]


Crossecion of insect wing vein.svg


Each of the wings consists of a thin membrane supported by a system of veins. The membrane is formed by two layers of integument closely apposed, while the veins are formed where the two layers remain separate; sometimes the lower cuticle is thicker and more heavily sclerotized under a vein. Within each of the major veins there is a nerve and a trachea, and, since the cavities of the veins are connected with the hemocoel, hemolymph can flow into the wings. [11]

As the wing develops, the dorsal and ventral integumental layers become closely apposed over most of their area forming the wing membrane. The remaining areas form channels, the future veins, in which the nerves and tracheae may occur. The cuticle surrounding the veins becomes thickened and more heavily sclerotized to provide strength and rigidity to the wing. Two types of hair may occur on the wings: microtrichia, which are small and irregularly scattered, and macrotrichia, which are larger, socketed, and may be restricted to veins. The scales of Lepidoptera and Trichoptera are highly modified macrotrichia. [12]


Venation of insect wings, based on the Comstock-Needham system Venation of insect wing.svg
Venation of insect wings, based on the Comstock–Needham system

In some very small insects, the venation may be greatly reduced. In chalcidoid wasps, for instance, only the subcosta and part of the radius are present. Conversely, an increase in venation may occur by the branching of existing veins to produce accessory veins or by the development of additional, intercalary veins between the original ones, as in the wings of Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets). Large numbers of cross-veins are present in some insects, and they may form a reticulum as in the wings of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and at the base of the forewings of Tettigonioidea and Acridoidea (katydids and grasshoppers respectively). [11]

The archedictyon is the name given to a hypothetical scheme of wing venation proposed for the very first winged insect. It is based on a combination of speculation and fossil data. Since all winged insects are believed to have evolved from a common ancestor, the archedictyon represents the "template" that has been modified (and streamlined) by natural selection for 200 million years. According to current dogma, the archedictyon contained 6–8 longitudinal veins. These veins (and their branches) are named according to a system devised by John Comstock and George Needham—the Comstock–Needham system: [13]

Costa (C) – the leading edge of the wing
Subcosta (Sc) – second longitudinal vein (behind the costa), typically unbranched
Radius (R) – third longitudinal vein, one to five branches reach the wing margin
Media (M) – fourth longitudinal vein, one to four branches reach the wing margin
Cubitus (Cu) – fifth longitudinal vein, one to three branches reach the wing margin
Anal veins (A1, A2, A3) – unbranched veins behind the cubitus

The costa (C) is the leading marginal vein on most insects. Sometimes, there is a small vein above the costa called the precosta, although in almost all extant insects, [14] :41–42 the precosta is fused with the costa. The costa rarely ever branches because it is at the leading edge, which is associated at its base with the humeral plate. The trachea of the costal vein is perhaps a branch of the subcostal trachea. Located after the costa is the third vein, the subcosta, which branches into two separate veins: the anterior and posterior. The base of the subcosta is associated with the distal end of the neck of the first axillary (see section below). The fourth vein is the radius (R), which is branched into five separate veins. The radius is generally the strongest vein of the wing. Toward the middle of the wing, it forks into a first undivided branch (R1) and a second branch, called the radial sector (Ra), which subdivides dichotomously into four distal branches (R2, R3, R4, R5). Basally, the radius is flexibly united with the anterior end of the second axillary (2Ax). [15]

The fifth vein of the wing is the media. In the archetype pattern (A), the media forks into two main branches: a media anterior (MA), which divides into two distal branches (MA1, MA2), and a median sector, or media posterior (MP), which has four terminal branches (M1, M2, M3, M4). In most modern insects the media anterior has been lost, and the usual "media" is the four-branched media posterior with the common basal stem. In the Ephemerida, according to present interpretations of the wing venation, both branches of the media are retained, while in Odonata the persisting media is the primitive anterior branch. The stem of the media is often united with the radius, but when it occurs as a distinct vein its base is associated with the distal median plate (m') or is continuously sclerotized with the latter. The cubitus, the sixth vein of the wing, is primarily two branched. The primary forking of the takes place near the base of the wing, forming the two principal branches (Cu1, Cu2). The anterior branch may break up into a number of secondary branches, but commonly it forks into two distal branches. The second branch of the cubitus (Cu2) in Hymenoptera, Trichoptera, and Lepidoptera was mistaken by Comstock and Needham for the first anal. Proximally the main stem of the cubitus is associated with the distal median plate (m') of the wing base. [15]

Postcubitus (Pcu) is the first anal of the Comstock–Needham system. The postcubitus, however, has the status of an independent wing vein and should be recognized as such.[ citation needed ] In nymphal wings, its trachea arises between the cubital trachea and the group of vannal tracheae. In the mature wings of more generalized insect the Postcubitus is always associated proximally with the cubitus and is never intimately connected with the flexor sclerite (3Ax) of the wing base. In Neuroptera, Mecoptera, and Trichoptera the postcubitus may be more closely associated with the vannal veins, but its base is always free from the latter. The postcubitus is usually unbranched; it is primitively two branched. The vannal veins (lV to nV) are the anal veins that are immediately associated with the third axillary, and which are directly affected by the movement of this sclerite that brings about the flexion of the wings. In number the vannal veins vary. from 1 to 12, according to the expansion of the vannal area of the wing. The vannal tracheae usually arise from a common tracheal stem in nymphal insects, and the veins are regarded as branches of a single anal vein. Distally the vannal veins are either simple or branched. Jugal Veins (J) of the jugal lobe of the wing is often occupied by a network of irregular veins, or it may be entirely membranous; but sometimes it contains one or two distinct small veins, the first jugal vein, or vena arcuata, and the second jugal vein, or vena cardinalis (2J). [15]

C-Sc cross-veins – run between the costa and subcosta
R cross-veins – run between adjacent branches of the radius
R-M cross-veins – run between the radius and media
M-Cu cross-veins – run between the media and cubitus

All the veins of the wing are subject to secondary forking and to union by cross-veins. In some orders of insects the cross-veins are so numerous that the whole venational pattern becomes a close network of branching veins and cross-veins. Ordinarily, however, there is a definite number of cross-veins having specific locations. The more constant cross-veins are the humeral cross-vein (h) between costa and subcosta, the radial cross-vein (r) between R and the first fork of Rs, the sectorial cross-vein (s) between the two forks of R8, the median cross-vein (m–m) between M2 and M3, and the mediocubital cross-vein (m-cu) between media and cubitus. [15]

The veins of insect wings are characterized by a convex-concave placement, such as those seen in mayflies (i.e., concave is "down" and convex is "up") which alternate regularly and by its triadic type of branching; whenever a vein forks there is always an interpolated vein of the opposite position between the two branches. A concave vein will fork into two concave veins (with the interpolated vein being convex) and the regular alteration of the veins is preserved. [16] The veins of the wing appear to fall into an undulating pattern according to whether they have a tendency to fold up or down when the wing is relaxed. The basal shafts of the veins are convex, but each vein forks distally into an anterior convex branch and a posterior concave branch. Thus the costa and subcosta are regarded as convex and concave branches of a primary first vein, Rs is the concave branch of the radius, posterior media the concave branch of the media, Cu1 and Cu2 are respectively convex and concave, while the primitive Postcubitus and the first vannal have each an anterior convex branch and a posterior concave branch. The convex or concave nature of the veins has been used as evidence in determining the identities of the persisting distal branches of the veins of modern insects, but it has not been demonstrated to be consistent for all wings. [11] [15]


Areas of insect wing.svg

Wing areas are delimited and subdivided by fold-lines along which the wing can fold, and flexion-lines along which the wing can flex during flight. The fundamental distinction between the flexion-lines and the fold-lines is often blurred, as fold-lines may permit some flexibility or vice versa. Two constants that are found in nearly all insect wings are the claval (a flexion-line) and jugal folds (or fold line); forming variable and unsatisfactory boundaries. Wing foldings can be very complicated, with transverse folding occurring in the hindwings of Dermaptera and Coleoptera, and in some insects the anal area can be folded like a fan. [14] There are about four different fields found on the insect wings:

Anal area (vannus)
Jugal area
Axillary area

Most veins and crossveins occur in the anterior area of the remigium, which is responsible for most of the flight, powered by the thoracic muscles. The posterior portion of the remigium is sometimes called the clavus; the two other posterior fields are the anal and jugal ares. [14] When the vannal fold has the usual position anterior to the group of anal veins, the remigium contains the costal, subcostal, radial, medial, cubital, and postcubital veins. In the flexed wing the remigiumturns posteriorly on the flexible basal connection of the radius with the second axillary, and the base of the mediocubital field is folded medially on the axillary region along the plica basalis (bf) between the median plates (m, m') of the wing base. [15]

The vannus is bordered by the vannal fold, which typically occurs between the postcubitus and the first vannal vein. In Orthoptera it usually has this position. In the forewing of Blattidae, however, the only fold in this part of the wing lies immediately before the postcubitus. In Plecoptera the vannal fold is posterior to the postcubitus, but proximally it crosses the base of the first vannal vein. In the cicada the vannal fold lies immediately behind the first vannal vein (lV). These small variations in the actual position of the vannal fold, however, do not affect the unity of action of the vannal veins, controlled by the flexor sclerite (3Ax), in the flexion of the wing. In the hindwings of most Orthoptera a secondary vena dividens forms a rib in the vannal fold. The vannus is usually triangular in shape, and its veins typically spread out from the third axillary like the ribs of a fan. Some of the vannal veins may be branched, and secondary veins may alternate with the primary veins. The vannal region is usually best developed in the hindwing, in which it may be enlarged to form a sustaining surface, as in Plecoptera and Orthoptera. The great fanlike expansions of the hindwings of Acrididae are clearly the vannal regions, since their veins are all supported on the third axillary sclerites on the wing bases, though Martynov (1925) ascribes most of the fan areas in Acrididae to the jugal regions of the wings. The true jugum of the acridid wing is represented only by the small membrane (Ju) mesad of the last vannal vein. The jugum is more highly developed in some other Polyneoptera, as in the Mantidae. In most of the higher insects with narrow wings the vannus becomes reduced, and the vannal fold is lost, but even in such cases the flexed wing may bend along a line between the postcubitus and the first vannal vein. [15]

The Jugal Region, or Neala, is a region of the wing that is usually a small membranous area proximal to the base of the vannus strengthened by a few small, irregular veinlike thickenings; but when well developed it is a distinct section of the wing and may contain one or two jugal veins. When the jugal area of the forewing is developed as a free lobe, it projects beneath the humeral angle of the hindwing and thus serves to yoke the two wings together. In the Jugatae group of Lepidoptera it bears a long finger-like lobe. The jugal region was termed the neala ("new wing") because it is evidently a secondary and recently developed part of the wing. [15]

The axillary region is region containing the axillary sclerites has in general the form of a scalene triangle. The base of the triangle (a-b) is the hinge of the wing with the body; the apex (c) is the distal end of the third axillary sclerite; the longer side is anterior to the apex. The point d on the anterior side of the triangle marks the articulation of the radial vein with the second axillary sclerite. The line between d and c is the plica basalis (bf), or fold of the wing at the base of the mediocubital field. [15]

At the posterior angle of the wing base in some Diptera there is a pair of membranous lobes (squamae, or calypteres) known as the alula. The alula is well developed in the house fly. The outer squama (c) arises from the wing base behind the third axillary sclerite (3Ax) and evidently represents the jugal lobe of other insects (A, D); the larger inner squama (d) arises from the posterior scutellar margin of the tergum of the wing-bearing segment and forms a protective, hoodlike canopy over the haltere. In the flexed wing the outer squama of the alula is turned upside down above the inner squama, the latter not being affected by the movement of the wing. In many Diptera a deep incision of the anal area of the wing membrane behind the single vannal vein sets off a proximal alar lobe distal to the outer squama of the alula. [15]


Sclerites of insect wing.svg

The various movements of the wings, especially in insects that flex the wings horizontally over the back when at rest, demand a more complicated articular structure at the wing base than a mere hinge of the wing with the body. Each wing is attached to the body by a membranous basal area, but the articular membrane contains a number of small articular sclerites, collectively known as the pteralia. The pteralia include an anterior humeral plate at the base of the costal vein, a group of axillaries (Ax) associated with the subcostal, radial, and vannal veins, and two less definite median plates (m, m') at the base of the mediocubital area. The axillaries are specifically developed only in the wing-flexing insects, where they constitute the flexor mechanism of the wing operated by the flexor muscle arising on the pleuron. Characteristic of the wing base is also a small lobe on the anterior margin of the articular area proximal to the humeral plate, which, in the forewing of some insects, is developed into a large, flat, scale-like flap, the tegula, overlapping the base of the wing. Posteriorly the articular membrane often forms an ample lobe between the wing and the body, and its margin is generally thickened and corrugated, giving the appearance of a ligament, the so-called axillary cord, continuous mesally with the posterior marginal scutellar fold of the tergal plate bearing the wing. [15]

The articular sclerites, or pteralia, of the wing base of the wing-flexing insects and their relations to the body and the wing veins, shown diagrammatically, are as follows:

Humeral plates
First Axillary
Second Axillary
Third Axillary
Fourth Axillary
Median plates (m, m')

The humeral plate is usually a small sclerite on the anterior margin of the wing base, movable and articulated with the base of the costal vein. Odonata have their humeral plate greatly enlarged, [15] with two muscles arising from the episternum inserted into the Humeral plates and two from the edge of the epimeron inserted into the axillary plate. [11]

The first axillary sclerite (lAx) is the anterior hinge plate of the wing base. Its anterior part is supported on the anterior notal wing process of the tergum (ANP); its posterior part articulates with the tergal margin. The anterior end of the sclerite is generally produced as a slender arm, the apex of which (e) is always associated with the base of the subcostal vein (Sc), though it is not united with the latter. The body of the sclerite articulates laterally with the second axillary. The second axillary sclerite (2Ax) is more variable in form than the first axillary, but its mechanical relations are no less definite. It is obliquely hinged to the outer margin of the body of the first axillary, and the radial vein (R) is always flexibly attached to its anterior end (d). The second axillary presents both a dorsal and a ventral sclerotization in the wing base; its ventral surface rests upon the fulcral wing process of the pleuron. The second axillary, therefore, is the pivotal sclerite of the wing base, and it specifically manipulates the radial vein. [15]

The third axillary sclerite (3Ax) lies in the posterior part of the articular region of the wing. Its form is highly variable and often irregular, but the third axillary is the sclerite on which is inserted the flexor muscle of the wing (D). Mesally it articulates anteriorly (f) with the posterior end of the second axillary, and posteriorly (b) with the posterior wing process of the tergum (PNP), or with a small fourth axillary when the latter is present. Distally the third axillary is prolonged in a process which is always associated with the bases of the group of veins in the anal region of the wing here termed the vannal veins (V). The third axillary, therefore, is usually the posterior hinge plate of the wing base and is the active sclerite of the flexor mechanism, which directly manipulates the vannal veins. The contraction of the flexor muscle (D) revolves the third axillary on its mesal articulations (b, f) and thereby lifts its distal arm; this movement produces the flexion of the wing. The Fourth Axillary sclerite is not a constant element of the wing base. When present it is usually a small plate intervening between the third axillary and the posterior notal wing process and is probably a detached piece of the latter. [15]

The median plates (m, m') are also sclerites that are not so definitely differentiated as specific plates as are the three principal axillaries, but nevertheless they are important elements of the flexor apparatus. They lie in the median area of the wing base distal to the second and third axillaries and are separated from each other by an oblique line (bf) which forms a prominent convex fold during flexion of the wing. The proximal plate (m) is usually attached to the distal arm of the third axillary and perhaps should be regarded as a part of the latter. The distal plate (m') is less constantly present as a distinct sclerite and may be represented by a general sclerotization of the base of the mediocubital field of the wing. When the veins of this region are distinct at their bases, they are associated with the outer median plate. [15]


The diamond-shaped alary muscles (green) of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae and their structural relationship to the tube-like heart (also in green). Red depicts pericardial cells, blue cell nuclei. Structural organization of the heart of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae - image.ppat.v08.i11.g001.png
The diamond-shaped alary muscles (green) of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae and their structural relationship to the tube-like heart (also in green). Red depicts pericardial cells, blue cell nuclei.

The muscles that control flight in insects can take up to 10% to 30% of the total body mass. The muscles that control flight vary with the two types of flight found in insects: indirect and direct. Insects that use first, indirect, have the muscles attach to the tergum instead of the wings, as the name suggests. As the muscles contract, the thoracic box becomes distorted, transferring the energy to the wing. There are two "bundles" of muscles, those that span parallel to the tergum, the dorsolongitudinals, and those that are attached to the tegum and extend to the sternum, the dorsoventrals. [17] In direct muscle, the connection is directly from the pleuron (thoracic wall) to individual sclerites located at the base of the wing. The subalar and basilar muscles have ligament attachments to the subalar and basilar sclerites. Here resilin, a highly elastic material, forms the ligaments connecting flight muscles to the wing apparatus.

In more derived orders of insects, such as Diptera (flies) and Hymenoptera (wasp), the indirect muscles occupy the greatest volume of the pterothorax and function as the primary source of power for the wingstroke. Contraction of the dorsolongitudinal muscles causes the severe arching of the notum which depresses the wing while contraction of the dorsoventral muscles causes opposite motion of notum. The most primitive extant flying insects, Ephemeroptera (mayflies) and Odonata (dragonflies), use direct muscles that are responsible for developing the needed power for the up and down strokes. [17] [18]

Insect wing muscle is a strictly aerobic tissue. Per unit protein it consumes fuel and oxygen at rates taking place in a very concentrated and highly organized tissue so that the steady-state rates per unit volume represent an absolute record in biology. The fuel and oxygen rich blood is carried to the muscles through diffusion occurring in large amounts, in order to maintain the high level of energy used during flight. Many wing muscles are large and may be as large as 10 mm in length and 2 mm in width. Moreover, in some Diptera the fibres are of giant dimensions. For instance, in the very active Rutilia , the cross-section is 1800 µm long and more than 500 µm wide. The transport of fuel and oxygen from the surroundings to the sites of consumption and the reverse transport of carbon dioxide therefore represent a challenge to the biologist both in relation to transport in the liquid phase and in the intricate system of air tubes, i.e. in the tracheal system. [19]


Several types of sensory neurons are found on insect wings: gustatory bristles, mechanosensory bristles, [20] campaniform sensilla, [21] and chordotonal organs. [22] These sensors provide the nervous system with both external and internal proprioceptive feedback necessary for effective flight [23] and grooming. [24]

Coupling, folding, and other features

In many insect species, the forewing and hindwing are coupled together, which improves the aerodynamic efficiency of flight. The most common coupling mechanism (e.g., Hymenoptera and Trichoptera) is a row of small hooks on the forward margin of the hindwing, or "hamuli", which lock onto the forewing, keeping them held together (hamulate coupling). In some other insect species (e.g., Mecoptera, Lepidoptera, and some Trichoptera) the jugal lobe of the forewing covers a portion of the hindwing (jugal coupling), or the margins of the forewing and hindwing overlap broadly (amplexiform coupling), or the hindwing bristles, or frenulum, hook under the retaining structure or retinaculum on the forewing. [14] :43

When at rest, the wings are held over the back in most insects, which may involve longitudinal folding of the wing membrane and sometimes also transverse folding. Folding may sometimes occur along the flexion lines. Though fold lines may be transverse, as in the hindwings of beetles and earwigs, they are normally radial to the base of the wing, allowing adjacent sections of a wing to be folded over or under each other. The commonest fold line is the jugal fold, situated just behind the third anal vein, [12] although, most Neoptera have a jugal fold just behind vein 3A on the forewings. It is sometimes also present on the hindwings. Where the anal area of the hindwing is large, as in Orthoptera and Blattodea, the whole of this part may be folded under the anterior part of the wing along a vannal fold a little posterior to the claval furrow. In addition, in Orthoptera and Blattodea, the anal area is folded like a fan along the veins, the anal veins being convex, at the crests of the folds, and the accessory veins concave. Whereas the claval furrow and jugal fold are probably homologous in different species, the vannal fold varies in position in different taxa. Folding is produced by a muscle arising on the pleuron and inserted into the third axillary sclerite in such a way that, when it contracts, the sclerite pivots about its points of articulation with the posterior notal process and the second axillary sclerite. [11]

As a result, the distal arm of the third axillary sclerite rotates upwards and inwards, so that finally its position is completely reversed. The anal veins are articulated with this sclerite in such a way that when it moves they are carried with it and become flexed over the back of the insect. Activity of the same muscle in flight affects the power output of the wing and so it is also important in flight control. In orthopteroid insects, the elasticity of the cuticle causes the vannal area of the wing to fold along the veins. Consequently, energy is expended in unfolding this region when the wings are moved to the flight position. In general, wing extension probably results from the contraction of muscles attached to the basilar sclerite or, in some insects, to the subalar sclerite. [11]


Australian emperor in flight; it uses the direct flight mechanism. Australian Emperor in flight.jpg
Australian emperor in flight; it uses the direct flight mechanism.

Flight mechanisms

Two groups of relatively large insects, the Ephemeroptera (mayflies) and the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) have the flight muscles attached directly to their wings; the wings can beat no faster than the rate at which nerves can send impulses to command the muscles to beat. [25] All other living winged insects fly using a different mechanism, involving indirect flight muscles which cause the thorax to vibrate; the wings can beat faster than the rate at which the muscles receive nerve impulses. This mechanism evolved once, and is the defining feature (synapomorphy) for the infraclass Neoptera. [25]


There are two basic aerodynamic models of insect flight. Most insects use a method that creates a spiralling leading edge vortex. [26] [27] Some very small insects use the fling and clap or Weis-Fogh mechanism in which the wings clap together above the insect's body and then fling apart. As they fling open, the air gets sucked in and creates a vortex over each wing. This bound vortex then moves across the wing and, in the clap, acts as the starting vortex for the other wing. Circulation and lift are increased, at the price of wear and tear on the wings. [26] [27]

Many insects can hover by beating their wings rapidly, requiring sideways stabilization as well as lift. [28]

A few insects use gliding flight, without the use of thrust.


Sometime in the Carboniferous Period, some 350 million years ago, when there were only two major land masses, insects began flying. How and why insect wings developed, however, is not well understood, largely due to the scarcity of appropriate fossils from the period of their development in the Lower Carboniferous. Three main theories on the origins of insect flight are that wings developed from paranotal lobes, extensions of the thoracic terga; that they are modifications of movable abdominal gills as found on aquatic naiads of mayflies; or that they developed from thoracic protrusions used as radiators. [29]


Holotype wing of the extinct Cimbrophlebia brooksi. 49.5 Million Years old; "Boot Hill", Klondike Mountain Formation, Washington, USA. Cimbrophlebia brooksi Holotype SR 06-20-05 A.jpg
Holotype wing of the extinct Cimbrophlebia brooksi . 49.5 Million Years old; "Boot Hill", Klondike Mountain Formation, Washington, USA.

Fossils from the Devonian (400 million years ago) are all wingless, but by the Carboniferous (320 million years ago), more than 10 different genera of insects had fully functional wings. There is little preservation of transitional forms between the two periods. The earliest winged insects are from this time period (Pterygota), including the Blattoptera, Caloneurodea, primitive stem-group Ephemeropterans, Orthoptera and Palaeodictyopteroidea. Very early Blattopterans (during the Carboniferous) had a very large discoid pronotum and coriaceous forewings with a distinct CuP vein (an unbranched wing vein, lying near the claval fold and reaching the wing posterior margin). [30] :399 Even though the oldest definitive insect fossil is the Devonian Rhyniognatha hirsti , estimated at 396–407 million years old, it possessed dicondylic mandibles, a feature associated with winged insects. [31]

During the Permian, the dragonflies (Odonata) were the dominant aerial predator and probably dominated terrestrial insect predation as well. True Odonata appeared in the Permian [32] [33] and all are amphibious. Their prototypes are the oldest winged fossils, [34] go back to the Devonian, and are different from other wings in every way. [35] Their prototypes may have had the beginnings of many modern attributes even by late Carboniferous and it is possible that they even captured small vertebrates, for some species had a wing span of 71 cm. [33] The earliest beetle-like species during the Permian had pointed, leather like forewings with cells and pits. Hemiptera, or true bugs had appeared in the form of Arctiniscytina and Paraknightia having forewings with unusual venation, possibly diverging from Blattoptera. [30] :186

A single large wing from a species of Diptera in the Triassic (10 mm instead of usual 2–6 mm) was found in Australia (Mt. Crosby).This family Tilliardipteridae, despite the numerous 'tipuloid' features, should be included in Psychodomorpha sensu Hennig on account of loss of the convex distal 1A reaching wing margin and formation of the anal loop. [36]


Diagram of different theories
A Hypothetical wingless ancestor
B Paranotal theory:
Hypothetical insect with wings from the back (Notum)
C Hypothetical insect with wings from the Pleurum
D Epicoxal theory
Hypothetical insect with wings from annex of the legs
1 Notum (back)
2 Pleurum
3 Exit (outer attachments of the legs) Evolution of wing of insect-V2.png
Diagram of different theories
A Hypothetical wingless ancestor
B Paranotal theory:
Hypothetical insect with wings from the back (Notum)
C Hypothetical insect with wings from the Pleurum
D Epicoxal theory
Hypothetical insect with wings from annex of the legs
1 Notum (back)
2 Pleurum
3 Exit (outer attachments of the legs)

Suggestions have been made that wings may have evolved initially for sailing on the surface of water as seen in some stoneflies. [41] An alternative idea is that it derives from directed aerial gliding descent—a preflight phenomena found in some apterygote, a wingless sister taxa to the winged insects. [42] The earliest fliers were similar to dragonflies with two sets of wings, direct flight muscles, and no ability to fold their wings over their abdomens. Most insects today, which evolved from those first fliers, have simplified to either one pair of wings or two pairs functioning as a single pair and using a system of indirect flight muscles. [29]

Natural selection has played an enormous role in refining the wings, control and sensory systems, and anything else that affects aerodynamics or kinematics. One noteworthy trait is wing twist. Most insect wings are twisted, as are helicopter blades, with a higher angle of attack at the base. The twist generally is between 10 and 20 degrees. In addition to this twist, the wing surfaces are not necessarily flat or featureless; most larger insects have wing membranes distorted and angled between the veins in such a way that the cross-section of the wings approximates an airfoil. Thus, the wing's basic shape already is capable of generating a small amount of lift at zero angle of attack. Most insects control their wings by adjusting tilt, stiffness, and flapping frequency of the wings with tiny muscles in the thorax (below). Some insects evolved other wing features that are not advantageous for flight, but play a role in something else, such as mating or protection. [29]

Evolution of the ways the wings at rest to the body to create
wings do not fold back
(recent Archaeoptera)
spread laterally (large bubbles)
over the back against one another
(damselflies, mayflies)
wings not foldable (e.g., stoneflies)
Foldingfan-fold (e.g., front wings of wasps)
Cross fold (such as the rear wing of the beetle)
Subjects folding (such as the rear wing of the earwigs)

Some insects, occupying the biological niches that they do, need to be incredibly maneuverable. They must find their food in tight spaces and be capable of escaping larger predators – or they may themselves be predators, and need to capture prey. Their maneuverability, from an aerodynamic viewpoint, is provided by high lift and thrust forces. Typical insect fliers can attain lift forces up to three times their weight and horizontal thrust forces up to five times their weight. There are two substantially different insect flight mechanisms, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages – just because odonates have a more primitive flight mechanism does not mean they are less able fliers; they are, in certain ways, more agile than anything that has evolved afterward. [29]


While the development of wings in insects is clearly defined in those who are members of Endopterygota, which undergo complete metamorphosis; in these species, the wing develops while in the pupal stage of the insects life cycle. However, insects that undergo incomplete metamorphosis do not have a pupal stage, therefore they must have a different wing morphogenesis. Insects such as those that are hemimetabolic have wings that start out as buds, which are found underneath the exoskeleton, and do not become exposed until the last instar of the nymph. [43]

The first indication of the wing buds is of a thickening of the hypodermis, which can be observed in insect species as early the embryo, and in the earliest stages of the life cycle. During the development of morphological features while in the embryo, or embryogenesis, a cluster of cells grow underneath the ectoderm which later in development, after the lateral ectoderm has grown dorsally to form wind imaginal disc. An example of wing bud development in the larvae, can be seen in those of White butterflies ( Pieris ). In the second instar the histoblast become more prominent, which now form a pocket-like structure. As of the third and fourth instars, the histoblast become more elongated. This greatly extended and evaginated, or protruding, part is what becomes the wing. By the close of the last instar, or fifth, the wing is pushed out of the wing-pocket, although continues to lie under the old larval cuticle while in its prepupal stage. It is not until the butterfly is in its pupal stage that the wing-bud becomes exposed, and shortly after eclosion, the wing begins to expand and form its definitive shape. [43]

The development of tracheation of the wings begin before the wing histoblast form, as it is important to note that they develop near a large trachea. During the fourth instar, cells from the epithelium of this trachea become greatly enlarged extend into the cavity of the wing bud, with each cell having developed a closely coiled tracheole. Each trachcole is of unicellular origin, and is at first intracellular in position; while tracheae are of multicellular origin and the lumen of each is intercellular in position. The development of tracheoles, each coiled within a single cell of the epithelium of a trachea, and the subsequent opening of communication between the tracheoles and the lumen of the trachea, and the uncoiling and stretching out of the tracheoles, so that they reach all parts of the wing. [43]

In the earlier stages of its development, the wing-bud is not provided with special organs of respiration such as tracheation, as it resembles in this respect the other portions of the hypodermis of which it is still a part. The histoblast is developed near a large trachea, a cross-section of which is shown in, which represents sections of these parts of the first, second, third and fourth instars respectively. At the same time the tracheoles uncoil, and extend in bundles in the forming vein-cavities of the wing-bud. At the molt that marks the beginning of the pupal stadium stage, they become functional. At the same time, the larval tracheoles degenerate; their function having been replaced by the wing tracheae. [43]


Most of the nomenclature of insect orders is based on the Ancient Greek word for wing, πτερόν (pteron), as the suffix -ptera.

Scientific Namelinguistic rootTranslation of the Scientific nameEnglish Name
Anisoptera ἀνισο- (aniso-)Unequal wingsDragonfly
Apteraἀ- (a-), notWingless Apterygotans, now obsolete
Apterygota πτερύγιον (pterygion small wing)[ citation needed ]
ἀ- (a-), not
Coleoptera Κολεός (koleos, sheath)Hardened wingsBeetles
Dermaptera Δέρμα (derma, skin, leather)Leather wingsEarwigs
Diaphanopterodea Διαφανής (diaphanes, transparent or translucent)With transparent wingsdiaphanopteroideans
Dictyoptera Δίκτυον (diktyon, network)Wings with netted venationCockroaches, mantises and termites
Diptera Δύο- (dyo-, two)Two wingsFlies
Embioptera ἐν- (en, inside; βίος bios, life)Interior living winged insectsWebspinners
Endopterygota ἐντός (entos, inside; πτερύγιον, small wing)Inside wingsHolometabolous insects
Ephemeroptera ἐφήμερος (ephemeros about one day long)Short lived winged insectsMayflies
Exopterygota ἔξω (exo, external)External wingsInsects that undergo incomplete metamorphosis (and thus have externally visible wing buds as nymphs)
Hemiptera ἡμι- (hemi-, half)Halfwinged insectsHemiptera (true bugs, leafhoppers, aphids, etc.)
Heteroptera ἑτερο- (hetero-, different)Different wingedTrue bugs
Homoptera ὅμο- (homo-, similar)Same wingednow obsolete
Hymenoptera ὑμένιον (hymenion, membrane)Insects with wings of thin membranesbees, wasps, ants, etc.
Isoptera ἶσον (ison, equal)Same wingedTermites
Lepidoptera Λεπίς (lepis, scale)Scaled wingsButterflies & Moths
Lonchopteridae Λόγχη (lonche, lance)Lance wingsLance flies
Mecoptera μῆκος (mekos, length)Long wingsSnake flies, etc.
Megaloptera Μεγαλο- (megalo-, large)Large wingsDobsonflies, fishflies
Neuroptera νεῦρον (neuron, vein)Veined wingLacewings, owlflies, antlions, etc.
Neoptera νέος (neos, new, young)New wingsIncludes all currently living orders of flying insects except mayflies and dragonflies
Oligoneopteraὀλίγον- (oligon-, few)
νέος (neos or new)
New with little veinsDivision of the Neoptera
Orthoptera ὀρθο (ortho-, straight)Straight wingsGrasshoppers, katydids, and crickets
Palaeodictyoptera Παλαιός (palaios-, old)
δίκτυον (diktyon meaning network)
Old veined wingsPrimitive palaeozoic paleopterous insects
Palaeoptera Παλαιός (Palaios, old)Old wingsMayflies, dragonflies, and several fossil orders
Paraneoptera Παρα- (Para-) νέος (neos, new)
Part of Neoptera, mostly with piercing mouthpartsTrue bugs, lice, barklice, thrips
Phthiraptera Φθείρ (phtheir, lice)
ἀ, a-, not
Lice without wingsAnimal lice
Plecoptera Πλέκειν (plekein, fold)Folded wingsStoneflies
Polyneoptera Πολύς (polys, many
Many veined wingsNeoptera with hemimetabolous development
Psocoptera Ψώχω (psocho, to rub)Rubbing wingsBarklice, booklice
Pterygota Πτερύγιον (pterygion, wing)Winged insectsIn class, unlike Apterygota, including winged and wingless secondary systems
Raphidioptera ῥαφίς (rhaphis, needle)Needle wingsSnakeflies
Siphonaptera Σίφων (siphon, tube)
ἀ- or without
Wingless siphonFleas
Strepsiptera Στρέψις (strepsis, to turn around)Rotating or twisted wingstwisted-winged parasites
Thysanoptera Θύσανοι (thysanoi, fringes)Fringe wingedThrips
Trichoptera Τρίχωμα (trichoma, hair)Haired wingsCaddisflies
Zoraptera Ζωρός (zōros meaning strong)Strong wingsZorapterans
Zygoptera ζεῦγος (zeugos meaning pair)Paired wingsDamselflies



Insect wings are fundamental in identifying and classifying species as there is no other set of structures in studying insects more significant. Each order and insect family has distinctive wing shapes and features. In many cases, even species may be distinguished from each other by differences of color and pattern. For example, just by position one can identify species, albeit to a much lesser extent. Though most insects fold their wings when at rest, dragonflies and some damselflies rest with their wings spread out horizontally, while groups such as the caddisflies, stoneflies, alderflies, and lacewings hold their wings sloped roof-like over their backs. A few moths wrap their wings around their bodies, while many flies and most butterflies close their wings together straight upward over the back. [44]

Many times the shape of the wings correlates with the type of insect flight. The best-flying insects tend to have long, slender wings. In many species of Sphingidae (sphinx moths), the forewings are large and sharply pointed, forming with the small hindwings a triangle that is suggestive of the wings of fast, modern airplanes. Another, possibly more important correlation, is that of the size and power of the muscles to the speed and power of flight. In the powerfully flying insects, the wings are most adapted for the stresses and aerodynamics of flight. The veins are thicker, stronger, and closer together toward the front edge (or "leading edge") and thinner yet flexible toward the rear edge (or "trailing edge"). This makes the insect wing an excellently constructed airfoil, capable of exerting both propulsion and lift while minimizing drag. [44]

Variation of the wing beat may also occur, not just amongst different species, but even among individuals at different times. In general, the frequency is dependent upon the ratio between the power of the wing muscles and the resistance of the load. Large-winged, light-bodied butterflies may have a wing beat frequency of 4–20 per second whereas small-winged, heavy-bodied flies and bees beat their wings more than 100 times a second and mosquitoes can beat up to 988–1046 times a second. The same goes for flight; though it is generally difficult to estimate the speed of insects in flight, most insects can probably fly faster in nature than they do in controlled experiments. [44]


In species of Coleoptera (beetles), the only functional wings are the hindwings. The hindwings are longer than the elytra, folded longitudinally and transversely under the elytra. The wing is rotated forwards on its base into flight position. This action spread the wing and unfolded longitudinally and transversely. There is the spring mechanism in the wing structure, sometimes with the help of abdomen movement, to keep the wing in folded position. The beetle wing venation is reduced and modified due to the folding structure, which include: [45]

Cross folding in the wings of beetles
Beetlewing unfolded.JPG The hindwing, spread: by folding lines, it is divided into five fields that are completed each to the rear.
Beetlewing half folded.JPG The same wing, half folded: The two joints of the cross-folding form an obtuse angle. The right is already in the wings folded in three layers. With greater resolution, the third arch of the wing margin in the first and second is visible. To the left of the fifth arch appears in the fourth.
Beetlewing folded.JPG The same wing, folded completely: The five fields are aligned (The elytra have been removed).

In most species of beetles, the front pair of wings are modified and sclerotised (hardened) to form elytra and they protect the delicate hindwings which are folded beneath. [30] The elytra are connected to the pterathorax; being called as such because it is where the wings are connected (pteron meaning "wing" in Greek). The elytra are not used for flight, but tend to cover the hind part of the body and protect the second pair of wings (alae). The elytra must be raised in order to move the hind flight wings. A beetle's flight wings are crossed with veins and are folded after landing, often along these veins, and are stored below the elytra. In some beetles, the ability to fly has been lost. These include some ground beetles (family Carabidae) and some "true weevils" (family Curculionidae), but also some desert and cave-dwelling species of other families. Many of these species have the two elytra fused together, forming a solid shield over the abdomen. In a few families, both the ability to fly and the elytra have been lost, with the best known example being the glow-worms of the family Phengodidae, in which the females are larviform throughout their lives. [13] [30]


Transition of scales color on a butterfly wing (30x magnification). Transition of scales color on a butterfly wing (around 30x magnification).jpg
Transition of scales color on a butterfly wing (30x magnification).

The two pairs of wings are found on the middle and third segment, or mesothorax and metathorax respectively. In the more recent genera, the wings of the second segment are much more pronounced, however some more primitive forms have similarly sized wings of both segments. The wings are covered in scales arranged like shingles, forming the extraordinary variety seen in color. The mesothorax is evolved to have more powerful muscles to propel moth or butterfly through the air, with the wing of said segment having a stronger vein structure. [30] :560 The largest superfamily, Noctuidae, has the wings modified to act as tympanal or hearing organs [46] Modifications in the wing's venation include: [45]

The wings, head parts of thorax and abdomen of Lepidoptera are covered with minute scales, from which feature the order 'Lepidoptera' derives its names, the word "lepteron" in Ancient Greek meaning 'scale'. Most scales are lamellar, or blade-like and attached with a pedicel, while other forms may be hair-like or specialized as secondary sexual characteristics. [47] The lumen or surface of the lamella, has a complex structure. It gives color either due to the pigmentary colors contained within or due to its three-dimensional structure. [48] Scales provide a number of functions, which include insulation, thermoregulation, aiding gliding flight, amongst others, the most important of which is the large diversity of vivid or indistinct patterns they provide which help the organism protect itself by camouflage, mimicry, and to seek mates. [47]


Species of Odonata (Damselflies and dragonflies) both have two pairs of wings which are about equal in size and shape and are clear in color. There are five, if the R+M is counted as 1, main vein stems on dragonfly and damselfly wings, and wing veins are fused at their bases and the wings cannot be folded over the body at rest, which also include: [45]

Dragonfly wing structure.png
Damselfly wing structure.png

The main veins and the crossveins form the wing venation pattern. The venation patterns are different in different species. There may be very numerous crossveins or rather few. The Australian Flatwing Damselfly's wings are one of the few veins patterns. The venation pattern is useful for species identification. [45] Almost all Anisoptera settle with the wings held out sideways or slightly downward, however most Zygoptera settle with the wings held together, dorsal surfaces apposed. The thorax of Zygoptera is so oblique that when held in this way the wings fit neatly along the top of the abdomen. They do not appear to be held straight up as in butterflies or mayflies. In a few zygopteran families the wings are held horizontally at rest, and in one anisopteran genus (e.g. Cordulephya, Corduliidae) the wings are held in the typical damselfly resting position. Adult species possess two pairs of equal or subequal wings. There appear to be only five main vein stems. A nodus is formed where the second main vein (subcosta) meets the leading edge of the wing. In most families a conspicuous pterostigma is carried near the wing tip. Identification as Odonata can be based on the venation. The only likely confusion is with some lacewings (order Neuroptera) which have many crossveins in the wings. Until the early years of the 20th century Odonata were often regarded as being related to lacewings and were given the ordinal name Paraneuroptera, but any resemblance between these two orders is entirely superficial. In Anisoptera the hindwing is broader than the forewing and in both wings a crossvein divides the discoidal cell into a Triangle and Supertriangle. [49]


Grasshopper wing structure.png

Species of Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) have forewings that are tough opaque tegmina, narrow which are normally covering the hindwings and abdomen at rest. The hindwings are board membranous and folded in fan-like manner, which include the following venation: [45]


Phasmid wing structure.png

Stick insect have forewings that are tough, opaque tegmina, short and covering only the base part of the hindwings at rest. Hindwings from costa to Cubitus are tough and opaque like the forewings. The large anal area are membranous and folded in fan-like manner. There are no or very few branching in stick insect wing veins. [45]


Unfolding of earwig wing
Earwig wing1.jpg The front and rear wings at rest: The front wing covers most of the hindwing, with only the joint projects in the form of a quarter circle forward with a central white spot under the forewing. On the right hand side of the forewing is opened to the right (blue arrow), which from this perspective appears narrower than it is with the rear wing still folded completely. .
Earwig wing2.jpg The front wing is open to the left (blue arrow) with the right side of the forewing removed; the hindwing is half open. With greater resolution, the multiple folding is shown, resembling a fan which is parallel to the lines b and c. The arrow points to the e point where the fan is closed again, having been folded by 180°..

Other orders such as the Dermaptera (earwigs), Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets), Mantodea (praying mantis) and Blattodea (cockroaches) have rigid leathery forewings that aren't flapped while flying, sometimes called tegmen (pl. tegmina), elytra , or pseudoelytron. [13]


In Hemiptera (true bugs), the forewings may be hardened, though to a lesser extent than in the beetles. For example, the anterior part of the front wings of stink bugs is hardened, while the posterior part is membranous. They are called hemelytron (pl. hemelytra). They are only found in the suborder Heteroptera; the wings of the Homoptera, such as the cicada, are typically entirely membranous. Both forewings and hindwings of Cicada are membranous. Most species are glass-like although some are opaque. Cicadas are not good fliers and most fly only a few seconds. When flying, forewing and hindwing are hooked together by a grooved coupling along the hindwing costa and forewing margin. Most species have a basic venation as shown in the following picture. [45]

Cicada wing structure.png

Also notice there are the ambient veins and peripheral membranes on the margin of both wings.


In the Diptera (true flies), there is only one pair of functional wings, with the posterior pair of wings are reduced to halteres, which help the fly to sense its orientation and movement, as well as to improve balance by acting similar to gyroscopes. In Calyptratae, the very hindmost portion of the wings are modified into somewhat thickened flaps called calypters which cover the halteres. [45]

Fly wing structure.png


Species of Blattodea (cockroaches) have a forewing, are also known as tegmen, that is more or less sclerotized. It is used in flight as well as a form of protection of the membranous hindwings. The veins of hindwing are about the same as front wing but with large anal lobe folded at rest between CuP and 1A. The anal lobe usually folded in a fan-like manner. [45]

Cockroach wing structure.png


An example of Longitudinal folding in wasps (Vespidae)
Waspwings unfolded.JPG The main fold line of the forewing seen halfway up as a bright horizontal line. The wing part that is behind this line is turned back down. The narrow strip at the front edge of the wing is in front of the first strong wire folded forward and down.
Waspwings folded.JPG So in rest position, the outer lining forms the tough outer edge of the wing, which protects the sides of the abdomen as a shock absorber. The rear wing is covered largely by the forewing.

Hymenoptera adults, including sawflies, wasps, bees, and non-worker ants, all have two pairs of membranous wings. [45]

The forward margin of the hindwing bears a number of hooked bristles, or "hamuli", which lock onto the forewing, keeping them held together. The smaller species may have only two or three hamuli on each side, but the largest wasps may have a considerable number, keeping the wings gripped together especially tightly. Hymenopteran wings have relatively few veins compared with many other insects, especially in the smaller species. [13]

Other families

Termites are relatively poor fliers and are readily blown downwind in wind speeds of less than 2 km/h, shedding their wings soon after landing at an acceptable site, where they mate and attempt to form a nest in damp timber or earth. [50] Wings of most termites have three heavy veins along the basal part of the front edge of the forewing and the crossveins near the wing tip are angled, making trapezoidal cells. Although subterranean termite wings have just two major veins along the front edge of the forewing and the cross veins towards the wingtip are perpendicular to these veins, making square and rectangular cells. [51]

Species of Thysanoptera (thrips) have slender front and hindwings with long fringes of hair, called fringed wings. While species of Trichoptera (caddisfly) have hairy wings with the front and hindwings clothed with setae. [13]

Male Strepsiptera also have halteres that evolved from the forewings instead of the hindwings. This means that only their hindwings are functional at flying, as opposed to Diptera which have functional forewings and halteres for hindwings.

See also


  1. Crampton, G. (1916). "The Phylogenetic Origin and the Nature of the Wings of Insects According to the Paranotal Theory". Journal of the New York Entomological Society. 24 (1): 1–39. JSTOR   25003692.
  2. 1 2 Ross, Andrew (2017). "Insect Evolution: The Origin of Wings". Current Biology. 27 (3): R113–R115. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.014 . PMID   28171756 via Web of Science.
  3. 1 2 Averof, Michalis, and S. M. Cohen. (1997). "Evolutionary origin of insect wings from ancestral gills". Nature. 385 (6617): 627–630. Bibcode:1997Natur.385..627A. doi:10.1038/385627a0. PMID   9024659. S2CID   4257270 via Web of Science.
  4. Grodnitsky, Dmitry, L. (1999). Form and Function of Insect Wings: The Evolution of Biological Structures. pp. 82–83.
  5. 1 2 3 Alexander, David, E. (2015). On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight. Oxford University Press. pp. 74–101.
  6. Haug, Joachim, C. Haug., and R. J. Garwood. (2016). "Evolution of insect wings and development - new details from Palaeozoic nymphs". Biological Reviews. 91 (1): 53–69. doi:10.1111/brv.12159. PMID   25400084. S2CID   21031689.
  7. Almudi, Isabel; Vizueta, Joel; Wyatt, Christopher D. R.; de Mendoza, Alex; Marlétaz, Ferdinand; Firbas, Panos N.; Feuda, Roberto; Masiero, Giulio; Medina, Patricia; Alcaina-Caro, Ana; Cruz, Fernando (2020). "Genomic adaptations to aquatic and aerial life in mayflies and the origin of insect wings". Nature Communications. 11 (1): 2631. Bibcode:2020NatCo..11.2631A. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-16284-8. ISSN   2041-1723. PMC   7250882 . PMID   32457347.
  8. Bruce, Heather, N.H. Patel. (2020). "Knockout of crustacean leg patterning genes suggests that insect wings and body walls evolved from ancient leg segments". Nature Ecology & Evolution. 4 (12): 1703–1712. doi:10.1038/s41559-020-01349-0. PMID   33262517. S2CID   227253368.
  9. Clark-Hatchel, Courtney (2013). "Insights into insect wing origin provided by functional analysis of vestigial in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110 (42): 16951–16956. Bibcode:2013PNAS..11016951C. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1304332110 . PMC   3801059 . PMID   24085843.
  10. Prokop, Jakub, Pecharová, M., Nel, A., Hörnschemeyer, T., Krzemińska, E., Krzemiński, W., & Engel, M (2017). "Paleozoic Nymphal Wing Pads Support Dual Model of Insect Wing Origins". Current Biology. 27 (2): 263–269. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.11.021 . PMID   28089512.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Chapman, R.F. (1998). The Insects: Structure and function (4th ed.). Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   0-521-57048-4.
  12. 1 2 Gilliott, Cedric (August 1995). Entomology (2 ed.). Springer-Verlag New York, LLC. ISBN   0-306-44967-6.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Meyer, John R. (5 January 2007). "External Anatomy: WINGS". Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Gullan, P. J.; Cranston, P. S. (2004). The insects: an outline of entomology . UK: Blackwell Publishing. p.  42. ISBN   1-4051-1113-5.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Snodgrass, R. E. (December 1993). Principles of Insect Morphology. Cornell Univ Press. ISBN   0-8014-8125-2.
  16. Spieth, HT (1932). "A New Method of Studying the Wing Veins of the Mayflies and Some Results Therefrom (Ephemerida)" (PDF). Entomological News. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-30.
  17. 1 2 Knospe, Carl R. (Fall 1998). "Insect Flight Mechanisms: Anatomy and Kinematics" (PDF). Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia.
  18. Weis-Fogh, T (July 1963). "Diffusion In Insect Wing Muscle, The Most Active Tissue Known". J Exp Biol. 41 (2): 229–256. doi:10.1242/jeb.41.2.229. PMID   14187297.
  19. Tiegs, O. W. (February 1954). "The Flight Muscles of Insects-Their Anatomy and Histology; with Some Observations on the Structure of Striated Muscle in General". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 238 (656): 221–348. Bibcode:1955RSPTB.238..221T. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1955.0001 . JSTOR   3739600.
  20. Valmalette, J.C., Raad, H., Qiu, N., Ohara, S., Capovilla, M. and Robichon, A., 2015. Nano-architecture of gustatory chemosensory bristles and trachea in Drosophila wings. Scientific reports, 5(1), pp.1-11.
  21. Dinges, G.F., Chockley, A.S., Bockemühl, T., Ito, K., Blanke, A. and Büschges, A., 2021. Location and arrangement of campaniform sensilla in Drosophila melanogaster. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 529(4), pp.905-925.
  22. Field, L.H. and Matheson, T., 1998. Chordotonal organs of insects. In Advances in insect physiology (Vol. 27, pp. 1-228). Academic Press.
  23. Wolf, H., 1993. The locust tegula: significance for flight rhythm generation, wing movement control and aerodynamic force production. Journal of Experimental Biology, 182(1), pp.229-253.
  24. Zhang, N. and Simpson, J.H., 2022. A pair of commissural command neurons induces Drosophila wing grooming. Iscience, 25(2), p.103792.
  25. 1 2 Chapman, A. D. (2006). Numbers of living species in Australia and the World. Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Study. pp. 60pp. ISBN   978-0-642-56850-2. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  26. 1 2 Wang, Z. Jane (2005). "Dissecting Insect Flight" (PDF). Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics. Annual Reviews. 37 (1): 183–210. Bibcode:2005AnRFM..37..183W. doi:10.1146/annurev.fluid.36.050802.121940.
  27. 1 2 Sane, Sanjay P. (2003). "The aerodynamics of insect flight" (PDF). The Journal of Experimental Biology. 206 (23): 4191–4208. doi: 10.1242/jeb.00663 . PMID   14581590. S2CID   17453426.
  28. Davidovits, Paul (2008). Physics in Biology and Medicine. Academic Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN   978-0-12-369411-9.
  29. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Grimaldi, David; Engel, Michael S. (2005). Evolution of the Insects. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  30. 1 2 3 4 5 Powell, Jerry A. (2009). "Coleoptera". In Resh, Vincent H.; Cardé, Ring T. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Insects (2 (illustrated) ed.). Academic Press. p. 1132. ISBN   978-0-12-374144-8.
  31. Michael S. Engel; David A. Grimaldi (2004). "New light shed on the oldest insect". Nature . 427 (6975): 627–630. Bibcode:2004Natur.427..627E. doi:10.1038/nature02291. PMID   14961119. S2CID   4431205.
  32. Grzimek HC Bernhard (1975) Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Vol 22 Insects. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. NY.
  33. 1 2 Riek EF Kukalova-Peck J (1984). "A new interpretation of dragonfly wing venation based on early Upper Carboniferous fossils from Argentina (Insecta: Odonatoida and basic character states in Pterygote wings.)". Can. J. Zool. 62 (6): 1150–1160. doi:10.1139/z84-166.
  34. Wakeling JM Ellington CP (1997). "Dragonfly flight III lift and power requirements". Journal of Experimental Biology. 200 (Pt 3): 583–600 (589). doi:10.1242/jeb.200.3.583. PMID   9318294.
  35. Matsuda R (1970). "Morphology and evolution of the insect thorax". Mem. Ent. Soc. Can. 102 (76): 1–431. doi:10.4039/entm10276fv.
  36. V. A. Blagoderov; E. D. Lukashevich; M. B. Mostovski (2002). "Order Diptera Linné, 1758. The true flies". In A. P. Rasnitsyn; D. L. J. Quicke (eds.). History of Insects. Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN   1-4020-0026-X.
  37. Gegenbaur, Carl (1870). Grundzüge der vergleichenden Anatomie. W. Engelmann.
  38. Trueman JWH (1990), Comment: evolution of insect wings: a limb exite plus endite model Canadian Journal of Zoology
  39. Staniczek, A.H.; Bechly, G. & Godunko, R.J. (2011). "Coxoplectoptera, a new fossil order of Palaeoptera (Arthropoda: Insecta), with comments on the phylogeny of the stem group of mayflies (Ephemeroptera)" (PDF). Insect Systematics & Evolution. 42 (2): 101–138. doi:10.1163/187631211X578406. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-03.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  40. Prokop, Jakub; Pecharová, Martina; Nel, André; Hörnschemeyer, Thomas; Krzemińska, Ewa; Krzemiński, Wiesław; Engel, Michael S. (January 2017). "Paleozoic Nymphal Wing Pads Support Dual Model of Insect Wing Origins". Current Biology. 27 (2): 263–269. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.11.021 . PMID   28089512.
  41. Adrian L. R. Thomas; R. Åke Norberg (1996). "Skimming the surface — the origin of flight in insects?". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 11 (5): 187–188. doi:10.1016/0169-5347(96)30022-0. PMID   21237803.
  42. Yanoviak SP, Kaspari M, Dudley R (2009). "Gliding hexapods and the origins of insect aerial behaviour". Biology Letters. 5 (4): 510–2. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0029. PMC   2781901 . PMID   19324632.
  43. 1 2 3 4 H. Comstock, Henry (1918). The Wings of Insects. Ithaca, NY: The Comstack Publishing Company. p.  114.
  44. 1 2 3 "Insect Wings in General". Aerodynamics of Insects. Cislunar Aerospace. 1997. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
  45. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Chew, Peter (May 9, 2009). "Insect Wings". Brisbane Insects and Spiders. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  46. Scoble, MJ. (1992). The Lepidoptera: Form, function, and diversity . Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN   978-1-4020-6242-1.
  47. 1 2 Scoble (1995). Section Scales, (pp 63 – 66).
  48. Vukusic, P. (2006). "Structural color in Lepidoptera" (PDF). Current Biology. 16 (16): R621–3. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.07.040 . PMID   16920604. S2CID   52828850 . Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  49. Trueman, John W. H.; Richard J. Rowe (16 October 2009). "Odonata. Dragonflies and damselflies". Retrieved 2011-03-21.
  50. Abe T., Bignell D.E; Higashi M (2000). Termites: evolution, sociality, symbioses, ecology, ecolab. Kluwer academic publishers. ISBN   0-7923-6361-2.
  51. "Termite". Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Archived from the original on 2011-04-13.

Related Research Articles

The forearm is the region of the upper limb between the elbow and the wrist. The term forearm is used in anatomy to distinguish it from the arm, a word which is most often used to describe the entire appendage of the upper limb, but which in anatomy, technically, means only the region of the upper arm, whereas the lower "arm" is called the forearm. It is homologous to the region of the leg that lies between the knee and the ankle joints, the crus.

Glossary of entomology terms List of definitions of terms and concepts commonly used in the study of entomology

This glossary of entomology describes terms used in the formal study of insect species by entomologists.

The notum is the dorsal portion of an insect's thoracic segment, or the dorsal surface of the body of nudibranch gastropods. The word "notum" is always applied to dorsal structures; in other words structures that are part of the back of an animal, as opposed to being part of the animal's ventral surface, or underside.

Lonchaeidae Family of flies

The Lonchaeidae are a family of acalyptrate flies commonly known as lance flies. About 500 described species are placed into 9 genera. These are generally small but robustly built flies with blue-black or metallic bodies. They are found, mainly in wooded areas, throughout the world with the exception of polar regions and New Zealand.

Blastobasidae Family of moths

The Blastobasidae are a family of moths in the superfamily Gelechioidea. Its species can be found almost anywhere in the world, though in some places they are not native but introduced by humans. In some arrangements, these moths are included in the case-bearer family (Coleophoridae) as subfamily Blastobasinae. The Symmocidae are sometimes included in the Blastobasidae as subfamily or tribe.

<i>Parnassius bremeri</i> Species of butterfly

Parnassius bremeri is a high altitude butterfly which is found in Russia, Korea and China. It is a member of the snow Apollo genus (Parnassius) of the swallowtail family (Papilionidae). Over its vast range, the species varies widely in morphology and many subspecies have been described.

Dixidae Family of flies

The Dixidae are a family of aquatic nematoceran flies (Diptera). The larvae live in unpolluted, standing fresh waters, just beneath the surface film, usually amongst marginal aquatic vegetation. They are found in all continents except Antarctica.

Outline of human anatomy Overview of and topical guide to human anatomy

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to human anatomy:


Archedictyon is a name given to a hypothetical scheme of wing venation proposed for the common ancestor of all winged insects.

Elbow Joint between the upper and lower parts of the arm

The elbow is the region between the arm and the forearm that surrounds the elbow joint. The elbow includes prominent landmarks such as the olecranon, the cubital fossa, and the lateral and the medial epicondyles of the humerus. The elbow joint is a hinge joint between the arm and the forearm; more specifically between the humerus in the upper arm and the radius and ulna in the forearm which allows the forearm and hand to be moved towards and away from the body. The term elbow is specifically used for humans and other primates, and in other vertebrates forelimb plus joint is used.

External morphology of Lepidoptera External features of butterflies and moths

The external morphology of Lepidoptera is the physiological structure of the bodies of insects belonging to the order Lepidoptera, also known as butterflies and moths. Lepidoptera are distinguished from other orders by the presence of scales on the external parts of the body and appendages, especially the wings. Butterflies and moths vary in size from microlepidoptera only a few millimetres long, to a wingspan of many inches such as the Atlas moth. Comprising over 160,000 described species, the Lepidoptera possess variations of the basic body structure which has evolved to gain advantages in adaptation and distribution.

Insect morphology Description of the physical form of insects

Insect morphology is the study and description of the physical form of insects. The terminology used to describe insects is similar to that used for other arthropods due to their shared evolutionary history. Three physical features separate insects from other arthropods: they have a body divided into three regions, have three pairs of legs, and mouthparts located outside of the head capsule. It is this position of the mouthparts which divides them from their closest relatives, the non-insect hexapods, which includes Protura, Diplura, and Collembola.

<i>Pseudacraea lucretia</i> Species of butterfly

Pseudacraea lucretia, the false diadem or false chief, is a butterfly of the family Nymphalidae. It is found in Africa.

The Comstock–Needham system is a naming system for insect wing veins, devised by John Comstock and George Needham in 1898. It was an important step in showing the homology of all insect wings. This system was based on Needham's pretracheation theory that was later discredited by Frederic Charles Fraser in 1938.

Dipteran morphology differs in some significant ways from the broader morphology of insects. The Diptera is a very large and diverse order of mostly small to medium-sized insects. They have prominent compound eyes on a mobile head, and one pair of functional, membraneous wings, which are attached to a complex mesothorax. The second pair of wings, on the metathorax, are reduced to halteres. The order's fundamental peculiarity is its remarkable specialization in terms of wing shape and the morpho-anatomical adaptation of the thorax – features which lend particular agility to its flying forms. The filiform, stylate or aristate antennae correlate with the Nematocera, Brachycera and Cyclorrhapha taxa respectively. It displays substantial morphological uniformity in lower taxa, especially at the level of genus or species. The configuration of integumental bristles is of fundamental importance in their taxonomy, as is wing venation. It displays a complete metamorphosis, or holometabolous development. The larvae are legless, and have head capsules with mandibulate mouthparts in the Nematocera. The larvae of "higher flies" (Brachycera) are however headless and wormlike, and display only three instars. Pupae are obtect in the Nematocera, or coarcate in Brachycera.

<i>Acraea jodutta</i> Species of butterfly

Acraea jodutta, the jodutta acraea, is a butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. It is found in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Stenophlebiidae Extinct family of insects

The Stenophlebiidae is an extinct family of medium-sized to large fossil odonates from the Upper Jurassic and Cretaceous period that belongs to the damsel-dragonfly grade ("anisozygopteres") within the stem group of Anisoptera. They are characterized by their long and slender wings, and the transverse shape of the discoidal triangles in their wing venation.

Tarsophlebiidae Extinct family of flying insects

The Tarsophlebiidae is an extinct family of medium-sized fossil odonates from the Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous period of Eurasia. They are either the most basal member of the damsel-dragonfly grade ("anisozygopteres") within the stem group of Anisoptera, or the sister group of all Recent odonates. They are characterized by the basally open discoidal cell in both pairs of wings, very long legs, paddle-shaped male cerci, and a hypertrophied ovipositor in females.

<i>Elektrithone</i> Extinct genus of insects

Elektrithone is an extinct genus of lacewing in the moth lacewings family Ithonidae. The genus is solely known from an Eocene fossil forewing found in Europe. At the times of description the genus was composed of a single species, Elektrithone expectata.

Odonata are insects with an incomplete metamorphosis (hemimetabolous). The aquatic larva or nymph hatches from an egg, and develops through eight to seventeen instars before leaving the water and emerging as the winged adult or imago.