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Why a mosquito leg possesses superior load-bearing capacity on water: Experimentals


Mosquitoes possess the striking ability to walk on water because each of their legs has a huge water supporting force (WSF) that is 23 times their body weight. Aiming at a full understanding of the origins of this extremely large force, in this study, we concentrate on two aspects of it: the intrinsic properties of the leg surface and the active control of the initial stepping angle of the whole leg. Using a measurement system that we developed ourselves, the WSFs for the original leg samples are compared with those whose surface wax and microstructures have been removed and with those of a different stiffness. The results show that leg flexibility plays a dominant role over surface wax and microstructures on the leg surface in creating the supporting force. Moreover, we discuss the dependence relationship between the maximum WSF and the initial stepping angle, which indicates that the mosquito can regulate this angle to increase or decrease the WSF during landing or takeoff. These findings are helpful for uncovering the locomotion mechanism of aquatic insects and for providing inspiration for the design of microfluids, miniature boats, biomimetic robots, and microsensors.

Graphical abstract

The deformation and typical force curve of the mosquito leg when it is pressed onto a water surface.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants 11302093, 11302094 and 11272357) and the Natural Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars of Shandong Province (JQ201302).

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Correspondence to Jian-Lin Liu.

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Kong, XQ., Liu, JL. & Wu, CW. Why a mosquito leg possesses superior load-bearing capacity on water: Experimentals. Acta Mech. Sin. 32, 335–341 (2016).

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  • Water supporting force
  • Wax coating
  • Surface microstructures
  • Flexibility
  • Initial stepping angle