Desert locusts are known to travel great distances, experiencing substantial mechanical stress along the way, however little is understood about their wings ability to resist damage during these long flights. Using a tensile test machine, Trinity College researchers Dr. Dirks and Dr. Taylor investigated the toughness of these insect’s extremely thin wings, specifically looking into the function of the network of veins running through the wing membrane, shown in Figure 1 above, as barriers to crack propagation. As the title, “Veins Improve Fracture Toughness of Insect Wings” suggests, the study found these veins increased the effective structural toughness of the wing significantly, causing cracks to slow or stop and helps explain how the insects manage to withstand damage incurred over long flights. Check out Video 1 of the article to see the veins impede cracks.
Dirks J-H, Taylor D (2012) Veins Improve Fracture Toughness of Insect Wings. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43411. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043411