Adhesion Performance in the Eggs of the Philippine Leaf Insect Phyllium Philippinicum (Phasmatodea: Phylliidae)

Leaf insects (Phasmatodea: Phylliidae) exhibit perfect crypsis imitating leaves. Although the special appearance of the eggs of the species Phyllium philippinicum, which imitate plant seeds, has received attention in different taxonomic studies, the attachment capability of the eggs remains rather anecdotical. We herein elucidate the specialized attachment mechanism of the eggs of this species and provide the first experimental approach to systematically characterize the functional properties of their adhesion by using different microscopy techniques and attachment force measurements on substrates with differing degrees of roughness and surface chemistry, as well as repetitive attachment/detachment cycles while under the influence of water contact. We found that a combination of folded exochorionic structures (pinnae) and a film of adhesive secretion contribute to attachment, which both respond to water. Adhesion is initiated by the glue, which becomes fluid through hydration, enabling adaption to the surface profile. Hierarchically structured pinnae support the spreading of the glue and reinforcement of the film. This combination aids the egg's surface in adapting to the surface roughness, yet the attachment strength is additionally influenced by the egg's surface chemistry, favoring hydrophilic substrates. Repetitive detachment and water-mediated adhesion can optimize the location of the egg to ensure suitable environmental conditions for embryonic development. Furthermore, this repeatable and water-controlled adhesion mechanism can stimulate further research for biomimeticists, ecologists and conservationalists.


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