Dragonfly wings are highly specialized locomotor systems, which are formed by a combination of several structural components. The wing components, also known as structural elements, are responsible for the various aspects of the wing functionality. Considering the complex interactions between the wing components, modelling of the wings as a whole is only possible with inevitable huge oversimplifications. In order to overcome this difficulty, we have recently proposed a new approach to model individual components of complex wings comparatively. Here, we use this approach to study nodus, a structural element of dragonfly wings which has been less studied to date. 

Using a combination of several imaging techniques including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), wide-field fluorescence microscopy (WFM), confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scanning, we aim to characterize the spatial morphology and material composition of fore- and hindwing nodi of the dragonfly Brachythemis contaminata. The microscopy results show the presence of resilin in the nodi, which is expected to help the deformability of the wings.

The computational results based on three-dimensional (3D) structural data suggest that the specific geometry of the nodus restrains its displacements when subjected to pressure on the ventral side. This effect, resulting from an interlocking mechanism, is expected to contribute to the dorso-ventral asymmetry of wing deformation and to provide a higher resistance to aerodynamic forces during the downstroke. Our results provide an important step towards better understanding of the structure–property-function relationship in dragonfly wings.

This article is awaiting publication in Acta Biomaterialia, and is available as an Article In Press, Corrected Proof.