Material stiffness variation in mosquito antennae

Saltin, B. D. and Matsumura, Y. and Reid, A. and Windmill, J. F. and Gorb, S. N. and Jackson, J. C. (2019) Material stiffness variation in mosquito antennae. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 16 (154). 20190049. ISSN 1742-5689 (

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The antennae of mosquitoes are model systems for acoustic sensation, in that they obey general principles for sound detection, using both active feedback mechanisms and passive structural adaptations. However, the biomechanical aspect of the antennal structure is much less understood than the mechano-electrical transduction. Using confocal laser scanning microscopy, we measured the fluorescent properties of the antennae of two species of mosquito – Toxorhynchites brevipalpis and Anopheles arabiensis – and, noting that fluorescence is correlated with material stiffness, we found that the structure of the antenna is not a simple beam of homogeneous material, but is in fact a rather more complex structure with spatially distributed discrete changes in material properties. These present as bands or rings of different material in each subunit of the antenna, which repeat along its length. While these structures may simply be required for structural robustness of the antennae, we found that in FEM simulation, these banded structures can strongly affect the resonant frequencies of cantilever-beam systems, and therefore taken together our results suggest that modulating the material properties along the length of the antenna could constitute an additional mechanism for resonant tuning in these species.