Curvature facilitates prey fixation in predatory insect claws

R. Petie, M. Muller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Insects show a large variety in prey capture strategies, with a correspondingly large diversity in predatory adaptations. We studied a specific type of predatory claws, these can for example be found in praying mantis species. The claw is closeable over its entire length and the prey is fixed between the femur (upper arm) and the tibia (lower arm) of the insect leg. The morphology of these predatory claws is diverse. Some species have straight claws covered with spines, while other species have smooth, curved claws. We have studied the mechanics of this femur-tibia type of predatory insect claws, by making a physical model, eventually trying to explain why in some insect species the claws are curved instead of straight. The main results are (1) when comparing curved claws to straight claws, curvature leads to a strong reduction of forces driving the prey away from the pivoting point, thereby reducing the need for friction generating structures. (2) In the curved claw model a position exists where the resulting force on the prey is exactly zero. This is because the normal forces on the femur and tibia are opposed, and in line. At this position the prey is perfectly clamped and not driven out of the claw. This feature does not exist in straight claws. (3) In the curved claw, the prey cannot be placed at a position further than a certain maximum distance from the pivoting point. Near this maximum position, the resulting force on the prey reaches high values because moment arms are near zero. (4) Between the zero position and the maximum position the resulting force is directed toward the pivoting point, which stabilizes prey fixation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-575
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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