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J Morphol. 2009 Oct;270(10):1247-61. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10754.

Structure and function of the arolium of Mantophasmatodea (Insecta).

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Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Vienna, Austria.


All species of the insect order Mantophasmatodea characteristically keep the 5th tarsomere and pretarsus (arolium plus two claws) turned upwards and off the substrate. The unusually large arolium was studied in two species of Mantophasmatodea using bright field light microscopy, reflection microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, TEM, SEM, and Cryo-SEM. It contains an epithelial gland, numerous tracheoles, and nerves. The gland consists of enlarged epithelial cells with large nuclei, mitochondria, RER, golgi complexes, microtubules, and numerous secretion vesicles. Evidence for exocytosis of the vesicles into the gland reservoir between the epithelial gland and the thick cuticle could be observed. Cryo-SEM revealed that the ventral side of the arolium and distal part of its dorsal side are covered with a liquid film. Fluid footprints of arolia of individuals walking on a glass plate also indicate the presence of secretory fluid on the arolium surface. Behavioral experiments using animals with ablated arolia showed that representatives of Mantophasmatodea do not need their arolia to detect and respond to vibratory communication signals nor to catch small to medium-sized prey. Individuals with ablated arolia were not able to move upside down on a smooth glass plate. We conclude that Mantophasmatodea use their arolia for attachment when additional adhesion force is required (e.g. windy conditions, handling large prey, mating). They can bring their arolia in contact with the surface in a very fast reflex (18.0 +/- 9.9 ms). The secretory fluid found on the surface is produced by the gland and transported to the outside, presumably through small pore channels, to enhance adhesion to the substrate.

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