Quantification of bush-cricket acoustic trachea mechanics using Atomic Force Microscopy nanoindentation

Eleftherios Siamantouras, Charlie Woodrow, Emine Celiker, Darron A. Cullen, Claire E. Hills, Paul E. Squires, Fernando Montealegre-Z

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Derived from the respiratory tracheae, bush-crickets’ acoustic tracheae (or ear canals) are hollow tubes evolved to transmit sounds from the external environment to the interior ear. Due to the location of the ears in the forelegs, the acoustic trachea serves as a structural element that can withstand large stresses during locomotion. In this study, we report a new Atomic Force Microscopy Force Spectroscopy (AFM-FS) approach to quantify the mechanics of taenidia in the bush-cricket Mecopoda elongata. Mechanical properties were examined over the longitudinal axis of hydrated taenidia, by indenting single fibres using precision hyperbolic tips. Analysis of the force-displacement (F-d) extension curves at low strains using the Hertzian contact model showed an Elastic modulus distribution between 13.9 MPa to 26.5 GPa, with a mean of 5.2 ± 7 GPa and median 1.03 GPa. Although chitin is the primary component of stiffness, variation of elasticity in the nanoscale suggests that resilin significantly affects the mechanical properties of single taenidia fibres (38% of total data). For indentations up to 400 nm, an intricate chitin-resilin response was observed, suggesting structural optimization between compliance and rigidity. Finite-element analysis on composite materials demonstrated that the Elastic modulus is sensitive to the percentage of resilin and chitin content, their location and structural configuration. Based on our results, we propose that the distinct moduli of taenidia fibres indicate sophisticated evolution with elasticity playing a key role in optimization. Statement of significance: In crickets and bush-crickets, the foreleg tracheae have evolved into acoustic canals, which transport sound to the ears located on the tibia of each leg. Tracheae are held open by spiral cuticular micro-fibres called taenidia, which are the primary elements of mechanical reinforcement. We developed an AFM-based method to indent individual taenidia at the nanometre level, to quantify local mechanical properties of the interior acoustic canal of the bush-cricket Mecopoda elongata, a model species in hearing research. Taenidia fibres were immobilized on a hard substrate and the indenter directly approached the epicuticle surface. This is the first characterization of the nano-structure of unfixed tracheal taenidia, and should pave the way for further in vivo mechanical investigations of auditory structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-410
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number6109
Early online date30 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • AFM nanoindentation
  • Elasticity
  • Finite element analysis
  • Outer ear
  • Resilin
  • Respiratory trachea
  • Taenidia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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