Latching of the click beetle (Coleoptera: Elateridae) thoracic hinge enabled by the morphology and mechanics of conformal structures

Ophelia Bolmin, Lihua Wei, Alexander M. Hazel, Alison C. Dunn, Aimy Wissa, Marianne Alleyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Elaterid beetles have evolved to ‘click’ their bodies in a unique maneuver. When this maneuver is initiated from a stationary position on a solid substrate, it results in a jump not carried out by the traditional means of jointed appendages (i.e. legs). Elaterid beetles belong to a group of organisms that amplify muscle power through morphology to produce extremely fast movements. Elaterids achieve power amplifications through a hinge situated in the thoracic region. The actuating components of the hinge are a peg and mesosternal lip, two conformal parts that latch to keep the body in a brace position until their release, the ‘click’, that is the fast launch maneuver. Although prior studies have identified this mechanism, they were focused on the ballistics of the launched body or limited to a single species. In this work, we identify specific morphological details of the hinges of four click beetle species – Alaus oculatus, Parallelostethus attenuatus, Lacon discoideus and Melanotus spp. – which vary in overall length from 11.3 to 38.8 mm. Measurements from environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) and computerized tomography (CT) were combined to provide comparative structural information on both exterior and interior features of the peg and mesosternal lip. Specifically, ESEM and CT reveal the morphology of the peg, which is modeled as an Euler–Bernoulli beam. In the model, the externally applied force is estimated using a micromechanical experiment. The equivalent stiffness, defined as the ratio between the applied force and the peg tip deflection, is estimated for all four species. The estimated peg tip deformation indicates that, under the applied forces, the peg is able to maintain the braced position of the hinge. This work comprehensively describes the critical function of the hinge anatomy through an integration of specific anatomical architecture and engineering mechanics for the first time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb196683
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology


  • Click beetles
  • Hinge mechanics
  • Hinge morphology
  • Power amplification


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