The biomechanics of the locust ovipositor valves: a unique digging apparatus

Rakesh Das, Shmuel Gershon, Benny Bar-On, Maryam Tadayon, Amir Ayali, Bat El Pinchasik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The female locust has a unique mechanism for digging in order to deposit its eggs deep in the ground. It uses two pairs of sclerotized valves to displace the granular matter, while extending its abdomen as it propagates underground. This ensures optimal conditions for the eggs to incubate and provides them with protection from predators. Here, the direction-dependent biomechanics of the locust's major, dorsal digging valves are quantified and analysed under forces in the physiological range and beyond, considering the hydration level as well as the females' sexual maturation state. Our findings reveal that the responses of the valves to compression forces in the digging and propagation directions change upon sexual maturation to follow their function and depend on environmental conditions. In addition, mature females, which lay eggs, have stiffer valves, up to approximately 19 times the stiffness of the pre-mature locusts. The valves are stiffer in the major working direction, corresponding to soil shuffling and compression, compared with the direction of propagation. Hydration of the valves reduces their stiffness but increases their resilience against failure. These findings provide mechanical and materials guidelines for the design of novel non-drilling burrowing tools, including three-dimensionally printed anisotropic materials based on composites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210955
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number188
StatePublished - 16 Mar 2022


  • biomechanics
  • digging
  • mechanical properties
  • numerical simulations
  • oviposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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