Inside the Grasshopper Head

locust head

Computer image of a micro CT scan of a locust head.
Air sacs shown in yellow
Image: Greco & colleagues*


Micro-CT scans are changing the way we view insects.  They allow entomologists to probe  the inside of insects and map the cavities.  The insect tracheal system is a system of hollow tubes and air sacs amenable to exploration by CT scans.  Some of the structures are small, are surrounded by hard tissue and are not readily dissected.  

A group of scientists* used micro CT scans to map the tracheal system and location of air sacs in the desert locust. They were able to differentiate air sac from air spaces inside digestive organs. They were able to compute the volume of the trachea system in agreement with independent methods by other techniques. The computer data could be sent to a 3-D printer to produce structural models. Particularly impressive is the detail in many of the hard tissue structures such as the labium. The combination of micro CT and 3-D printing has great potential to better communicate information about insect structures

*Mark Greco*, Duncan Bell, Lewis Woolnough, Stephen Laycock, Nick Corps, David Mortimore & Diana Hudson. 2014. 3-D visualisation, printing, and volume determination of the tracheal respiratory system in the adult desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 152: 42–51.
DOI: 10.1111/eea.12199

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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