Locusts jump by using a catapult mechanism in which energy produced by slow contractions of the extensor tibiae muscles of the hind legs is stored in distortions of the exoskeleton, most notably (1) the two semi-lunar processes at each knee joint and (2) the tendons of the extensor muscles themselves. The energy is then suddenly released from these stores to power the rapid, propulsive movements of the hind legs. The reliance on the mechanical storage of energy is likely to impact on jumping because growth occurs by a series of five moults, at each of which the exoskeleton is replaced by a new one. All developmental stages (instars) nevertheless jump as a means of forward locomotion, or as an escape movement. Here, I show that in each instar, resilin is added to the semi-lunar processes and to the core of the extensor tendons so that their thickness increases. As the next moult approaches, a new exoskeleton forms within the old one, with resilin already present in the new semi-lunar processes. The old exoskeleton, the tendons and their resilin are discarded at moulting. The resilin of the semi-lunar processes and tendons of the new instar is initially thin, but a similar pattern of deposition results in an increase of their thickness. In adults, resilin continues to be deposited so that at 4 weeks old the thickness in the semi-lunar processes has increased fourfold. These changes in the energy stores accompany changes in jumping ability and performance during each moulting cycle.
The author declares no competing or financial interests.
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
- Received February 10, 2016.
- Accepted May 31, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd