Compound Microstructures and Wax Layer of Beetle Elytral Surfaces and Their Influence on Wetting Properties

Mingxia Sun, Aiping Liang, Gregory S. Watson, Jolanta A. Watson, Yongmei Zheng, Lei Jiang

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20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A beetles' first line of defense against environmental hazards is their mesothoracic elytra - rigid, protective forewings. In order to study the interaction of these wings with water, the surface microstructures of various beetles' elytra were observed by Environment Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM) and Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). Chemistry components were ascertained using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). All the beetles of various habitats (including desert, plant, dung, land and water) exhibited compound microstructures on their elytra. The wetting properties of these elytra were identified using an optical contact angle meter. In general the native elytra exhibited hydrophilic or weak hydrophobic properties with contact angles (CAs) ranging from 47.5° to 109.1°. After treatment with chloroform, the CAs all increased on the rougher elytral surfaces. The presence of wax is not the only determinant of hydrophobic properties, but rather a combination with microscopic structures found on the surfaces. Irregularities and the presence or absence of tiny cracks, hairs (or setae), pores and protrusions are important factors which influence the wetting properties. Rougher elytral surfaces tended to present a stronger hydrophobicity. Effects on hydrophobicity, such as surface microstructures, chemistry, environment and aging (referring to the time after emergence), are also included and discussed. Our results also provide insights into the motion of water droplets when in contact with beetle elytra.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere46710
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

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