Featherwing beetles may be one of the smallest insects to exist, yet they still manage to fly with great speed when compared to other bigger flies. So how exactly are the tiny beetles able to do this? Here's what scientists have found so far.
These types of beetles are so small that even two of them going end to end of one another wouldn't be as thick as a credit card. When something is so miniature-sized, as the featherwing beetle is, it can be difficult to move through the air - since the friction is greater for an insect so small. But, despite this fact, researchers in Russia have discovered that the beetles can fly at great speeds, thanks to their weird wings. Alexey Polilov and his colleagues have found that the beetle has a wide wing stroke and lightweight wings, which aid the insect in being able to fly at a surprising pace.
The researchers specifically studied the Paratuposa placentis species of featherwing beetles. By using high-speed video equipment and computational simulations, they examined the beetle's flying styles. The way the wings move was something they had never seen previously with other bugs. These tiny insects' wings made a wide, eight-figure shape. When they reached the top of their bodies, the wings clapped together to decrease the pull, and then they would meet again at the bottom of the stroke. The extra-wide movement helps give the beetle more momentum when flying through tough winds.
Additionally, the wings material - formed out of bristles - assists the fast-moving bug. This material is different when compared to other insects that have wings made out of membranes. Despite the air's intense friction, the bristles allow the wings to move as if they were made of membranes. "The bristled wing rows almost as well [as membranous wings] without letting much air through, like the feather of a bird," explained Polilov. The study conducted at Lomonosov Moscow State University helped researchers get a better understanding of how these beetles were able to achieve the same athletic abilities as their larger counterparts. Stay tuned for more interesting developments in the scientific community.