Wing damage affects flight kinematics but not flower tracking performance in hummingbird hawkmoths

Anna Stöckl
Würzburg University, Germany

Date(s) : 12/05/2021   iCal
14 h 00 min - 15 h 00 min

The integrity of their wings is crucial to the many insect species that spend distinct portions of their life in flight. How insects cope with the consequences of wing damage is therefore a central question when studying how robust flight performance is possible with such fragile chitinous wings. It has been shown in a variety of insect species that the loss in lift-force production resulting from wing damage is generally compensated by an increase in wing beat frequency rather than amplitude. The consequences of wing damage for flight performance, however, are less well understood, and vary considerably between species and behavioural tasks. One hypothesis reconciling the varying results is that wing damage might affect fast flight manoeuvres with high acceleration, but not slower ones. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the effect of wing damage on the manoeuvrability of hummingbird hawkmoths (Macroglossum stellatarum) tracking a motorised flower. This assay allowed us to sample a range of movements at different temporal frequencies, and thus assess whether wing damage affected faster or slower flight manoeuvres. We show that hummingbird hawkmoths compensate for the loss in lift force mainly by increasing wing beat amplitude, yet with a significant contribution of wing beat frequency. We did not observe any effects of wing damage on flight manoeuvrability at either high or low temporal frequencies.

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