Thorax (insect anatomy)

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The thorax is the midsection (tagma) of the insect body. It holds the head, legs, wings and abdomen. It is also called mesosoma in other arthropods.

In biology, a tagma is a specialized grouping of multiple segments or metameres into a coherently functional morphological unit. Familiar examples are the head, the thorax, and the abdomen of insects. The segments within a tagma may be either fused or so jointed as to be independently moveable.

Insect Class of invertebrates

Insects or Insecta are hexapod invertebrates and the largest group within the arthropod phylum. Definitions and circumscriptions vary; usually, insects comprise a class within the Arthropoda. As used here, the term Insecta is synonymous with Ectognatha. Insects have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body, three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae. Insects are the most diverse group of animals; they include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known living organisms. The total number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million; potentially over 90% of the animal life forms on Earth are insects. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species reside in the oceans, which are dominated by another arthropod group, crustaceans.

Insect wing body part used by insects to fly

Insect wings are adult outgrowths of the insect exoskeleton that enable insects to fly. They are found on the second and third thoracic segments, 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. 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.

It is formed by the prothorax, mesothorax and metathorax and comprises the scutellum; the cervix, a membrane that separates the head from the thorax; and the pleuron, a lateral sclerite of the thorax.


The prothorax is the foremost of the three segments in the thorax of an insect, and bears the first pair of legs. Its principal sclerites are the pronotum (dorsal), the prosternum (ventral), and the propleuron (lateral) on each side. The prothorax never bears wings in extant insects, though some fossil groups possessed wing-like projections. All adult insects possess legs on the prothorax, though in a few groups the forelegs are greatly reduced. In many groups of insects, the pronotum is reduced in size, but in a few it is hypertrophied, such as in all beetles (Coleoptera), in which the pronotum is expanded to form the entire dorsal surface of the thorax, and most treehoppers, in which the pronotum is expanded into often fantastic shapes that enhance their camouflage or mimicry. Similarly, in the Tetrigidae, the pronotum is extended backward to cover the flight wings, supplanting the function of the tegmina.

The mesothorax is the middle of the three segments in the thorax of an insect, and bears the second pair of legs. Its principal sclerites are the mesonotum (dorsal), the mesosternum (ventral), and the mesopleuron (lateral) on each side. The mesothorax is the segment that bears the forewings in all winged insects, though sometimes these may be reduced or modified, as in beetles (Coleoptera) or Dermaptera, in which they are sclerotized to form the elytra, and the Strepsiptera, in which they are reduced to form halteres. All adult insects possess legs on the mesothorax. In some groups of insects, the mesonotum is hypertrophied, such as in Diptera, Hymenoptera, and Lepidoptera), in which the anterior portion of the mesonotum forms most of the dorsal surface of the thorax. In these orders, there is also typically a small sclerite attached to the mesonotum that covers the wing base, called the tegula. In one group of insects, the Hemiptera, the dorsal surface of the thorax is typically formed primarily of the prothorax, but also in part by the enlarged posterior portion of the mesonotum, called the scutellum; in the Coleoptera, the scutellum may or may not be visible, usually as a small triangular plate between the elytral bases, thus similar in position to the Hemipteran scutellum. In Diptera and Hymenoptera the mesothoracic scutellum is also distinct, but much smaller than the mesoscutum.

The metathorax is the posterior of the three segments in the thorax of an insect, and bears the third pair of legs. Its principal sclerites are the metanotum (dorsal), the metasternum (ventral), and the metapleuron (lateral) on each side. The metathorax is the segment that bears the hindwings in most winged insects, though sometimes these may be reduced or modified, as in the flies (diptera), in which they are reduced to form halteres, or flightless, as in beetles (coleoptera), in which they may be completely absent even though forewings are still present. All adult insects possess legs on the metathorax. In most groups of insects, the metanotum is reduced relative to the mesonotum. In the suborder apocrita of the hymenoptera, the first abdominal segment is fused to the metathorax, and is then called the propodeum.

In dragonflies and damselflies the mesothorax and metathorax are fused together to form the synthorax. [1] [2]

Odonata Order of insects

Odonata is an order of carnivorous insects encompassing the dragonflies (Anisoptera) and the damselflies (Zygoptera). The Odonata form a clade, which has existed since the Permian.

In some insect pupae, like the mosquitoes', the head and thorax can be fused in a cephalothorax.

Mosquito Family of flies

Mosquitoes are a group of about 3,500 species of small insects that are flies. Within Diptera they constitute the family Culicidae. The word "mosquito" is Spanish for "little fly". Mosquitoes have a slender segmented body, one pair of wings, three pairs of long hair-like legs, feathery antennae, and elongated mouthparts.


The cephalothorax, also called prosoma in some groups, is a tagma of various arthropods, comprising the head and the thorax fused together, as distinct from the abdomen behind. The word cephalothorax is derived from the Greek words for head and thorax. This fusion of the head and thorax is seen in chelicerates and crustaceans; in other groups, such as the Hexapoda, the head remains free of the thorax. In horseshoe crabs and many crustaceans, a hard shell called the carapace covers the cephalothorax.

Members of suborder Apocrita (wasps, ants and bees) in the order Hymenoptera have the first segment of the abdomen fused with the thorax, which is called the propodeum.

Apocrita suborder of insects

The Apocrita are a suborder of insects in the order Hymenoptera. It includes wasps, bees, and ants, and consists of many families. It contains the most advanced hymenopterans and is distinguished from Symphyta by the narrow "waist" (petiole) formed between the first two segments of the actual abdomen; the first abdominal segment is fused to the thorax, and is called the propodeum. Therefore, it is general practice, when discussing the body of an apocritan in a technical sense, to refer to the mesosoma and metasoma rather than the "thorax" and "abdomen", respectively. The evolution of a constricted waist was an important adaption for the parasitoid lifestyle of the ancestral apocritan, allowing more maneuverability of the female's ovipositor. The ovipositor either extends freely or is retracted, and may be developed into a stinger for both defense and paralyzing prey. Larvae are legless and blind, and either feed inside a host or in a nest cell provisioned by their mothers.

Hymenoptera Order of insects

Hymenoptera is a large order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. Over 150,000 living species of Hymenoptera have been described, in addition to over 2,000 extinct ones.

The propodeum or propodium is the first abdominal segment in Apocrita Hymenoptera. It is fused with the thorax to form the mesosoma. It is a single large sclerite, not subdivided, and bears a pair of spiracles. It is strongly constricted posteriorly to form the articulation of the petiole, and gives apocritans their distinctive shape.

In most flying insects, the thorax allows for the use of asynchronous muscles.

Asynchronous muscles are muscles in which there is no one-to-one relationship between electrical stimulation and mechanical contraction. These muscles are found in 75% of flying insects and have convergently evolved 7-10 times. Unlike their synchronous counterparts that contract once per neural signal, mechanical oscillations trigger force production in asynchronous muscles. Typically, the rate of mechanical contraction is an order of magnitude greater than electrical signals. Although they achieve greater force output and higher efficiency at high frequencies, they have limited applications because of their dependence on mechanical stretch.

The thorax in various types of insect
Heteroptera morphology-d.svg
  In Heteroptera
Housefly anatomy-key.svg
  In Diptera
Scheme ant worker anatomy-numbered.svg
  In Formicidae

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Dragonfly Infraorder of insects with long strong bodies and two pairs of wings

A dragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odonata, infraorder Anisoptera. Adult dragonflies are characterized by large, multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong, transparent wings, sometimes with coloured patches, and an elongated body. Dragonflies can be mistaken for the related group, damselflies (Zygoptera), which are similar in structure, though usually lighter in build; however, the wings of most dragonflies are held flat and away from the body, while damselflies hold the wings folded at rest, along or above the abdomen. Dragonflies are agile fliers, while damselflies have a weaker, fluttery flight. Many dragonflies have brilliant iridescent or metallic colours produced by structural coloration, making them conspicuous in flight. An adult dragonfly's compound eyes have nearly 24,000 ommatidia each.

Damselfly Suborder of insects

Damselflies are insects of the suborder Zygoptera in the order Odonata. They are similar to dragonflies, which constitute the other odonatan suborder, Anisoptera, but are smaller, have slimmer bodies, and most species fold the wings along the body when at rest. An ancient group, damselflies have existed since at least the Lower Permian, and are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Thorax frontal part of an animals body, between its head and abdomen

The thorax or chest is a part of the anatomy of humans and various other animals located between the neck and the abdomen. The thorax includes the thoracic cavity and the thoracic wall. It contains organs including the heart, lungs, and thymus gland, as well as muscles and various other internal structures. Many diseases may affect the chest, and one of the most common symptoms is chest pain. The word thorax comes from the Greek θώραξ thorax "breastplate, cuirass, corslet" via Latin: thorax.

American cockroach species of insect

The American cockroach is the largest species of common cockroach, and often considered a pest. In certain regions of the U.S. it is colloquially known as the waterbug, though is not a true waterbug since it is not aquatic. It is also known as the ship cockroach, kakerlac, and Bombay canary. It is often misidentified as a palmetto bug.

Blue-tailed damselfly species of insect

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Southern hawker species of insect

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The metasoma is the posterior part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the mesosoma. In insects, it contains most of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and circulatory system, and the apical segments are typically modified to form genitalia. In a few of the most primitive insects, the metasomal segments bear small, articulated appendages called "styli", which are often considered to be vestigial. There are also pre-apical appendages in most insect orders, called cerci, which may be multi-segmented and almost resembling a posterior pair of antennae; these may be variously modified, or lost entirely. Otherwise, most adult insects lack appendages on the metasoma, though many larval insects have some form of appendages, such as prolegs or, in aquatic insects, gills.

Blue dasher species of insect

The blue dasher is a dragonfly of the skimmer family. It is the only species in the genus Pachydiplax. It is very common and widely distributed through North America and into the Bahamas.

<i>Idolomantis diabolica</i> species of praying mantis

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External morphology of Lepidoptera The external features of butterflies and moths are described and explained.

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 study of the structure and major workings of the insect body

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.

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.

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.


  1. Theischinger, Günther; Hawking, John (2006). The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia. Collingwood Vic.: CSIRO Publishing. p. 303. ISBN   978 0 64309 073 6.
  2. Tillyard, R. J. (1917). The Biology of Dragonflies (PDF). Cambridge University Press. p. 20. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 3, 2017.