Nonlinear elasticity and damping govern ultrafast dynamics in click beetles

Ophelia Bolmin, John J. Socha, Marianne Alleyne, Alison C. Dunn, Kamel Fezzaa, Aimy A. Wissa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Many small animals use springs and latches to overcome the mechanical power output limitations of their muscles. Click beetles use springs and latches to bend their bodies at the thoracic hinge and then unbend extremely quickly, resulting in a clicking motion. When unconstrained, this quick clicking motion results in a jump. While the jumping motion has been studied in depth, the physical mechanisms enabling fast unbending have not. Here, we first identify and quantify the phases of the clicking motion: latching, loading, and energy release. We detail the motion kinematics and investigate the governing dynamics (forces) of the energy release. We use high-speed synchrotron X-ray imaging to observe and analyze the motion of the hinge’s internal structures of four Elater abruptus specimens. We show evidence that soft cuticle in the hinge contributes to the spring mechanism through rapid recoil. Using spectral analysis and nonlinear system identification, we determine the equation of motion and model the beetle as a nonlinear single-degree-of-freedom oscillator. Quadratic damping and snap-through buckling are identified to be the dominant damping and elastic forces, respectively, driving the angular position during the energy release phase. The methods used in this study provide experimental and analytical guidelines for the analysis of extreme motion, starting from motion observation to identifying the forces causing the movement. The tools demonstrated here can be applied to other organisms to enhance our understanding of the energy storage and release strategies small animals use to achieve extreme accelerations repeatedly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2014569118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Click beetles
  • Distributed springs
  • Power amplification
  • Release dynamics
  • Synchrotron X-ray imaging


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