Discovering how these tiny creatures fly and how to orient themselves and make decisions is amazing. They are highly sophisticated, much more than some would have imagined for winged insects.
A team of Russian scientists has discovered that a species of beetles that does not exceed half a millimeter in length, moves its wings in a unique way, making it fly at high speed.
In a report published by the French newspaper “Le Monde”, writer Nathaniel Herzberg says that the known species of insects in the world amount to 1.3 million, and about 10,000 new species are discovered annually, and many interesting facts about these small organisms.
kayaking in the air
The latest of these discoveries came as part of a study conducted by a team of scientists from Lomonosov Moscow University, and published in the prestigious “Nature” journal on January 19.
Scientists have found that a species of beetles in the family Ptinidae, less than half a millimeter in size, flies in a strange and impressive way. This type of beetle “roars in the air. This way of flying helps it reach an extraordinary speed,” says Alexey Polelov, director of the Entomology Laboratory of Lomonosov University.
During the past years, the team had published a number of articles that included biological and anatomical details about the main beetle in this family, known as “Paratuposa placentis”, and its length does not exceed 0.4 millimeters, but they did not monitor its flight method.
“This time we have the whole story, and it’s really beautiful,” says Jerome Casas, professor of ecology at the University of Tours, France, who specializes in insects – praising the results of the new study.
wings covered with feathers
Since the nineteenth century, scientists have discovered that some insects have wings of feathers instead of a skin membrane, and during the past decades, researchers have understood why this type of insect has feathered wings.
Jerome Casas says that these beetles “with a size of less than a millimeter fly through the air as if they were in a viscous liquid. Like the hands of a swimmer who does not close his fingers, the comb-shaped wings give them high efficiency, and they are much less weight than the membrane.”
The high-resolution images published within the study show that the beetles collected from Vietnam and placed in a transparent room, have back wings that draw an “8” shape in flight. “The discovery of this secret came as a big surprise to us,” says lead author of the study Sergey Varesenkov.
Scientists discovered that the wings touch the top and bottom of the body in an unusual way. Thanks to careful modeling techniques, the team was able to determine the role of lift and drag forces in the way this species of beetle flies.
Commenting on the shortcomings of the study, Casas adds, “The discovery of the way these little creatures fly, how they orient themselves and make decisions, is surprising. They are very sophisticated, much more than some had imagined for winged insects. But in the face of external factors, when there is wind , What are you doing?”.
According to the writer, Polelov and his team that has specialized for 20 years in the study of these small organisms, will certainly try to answer this question.