Spinning behaviour and morphology of the spinning glands in male and female Aposthonia ceylonica Enderlein, 1912 (Embioptera: Oligotomidae)

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Elsevier B.V.


Embioptera (webspinners) are unique among insects in that juvenile and adults of both sexes spin silk. They possess spinning apparatuses in the basitarsomeres of their prothoracic legs, which they use to build galleries as habitat and protection. Embioptera are primitively social and cooperate in building the galleries. They also show sexual dimorphism that comprises modifications of the mandibles in males, the winglessness of the females and differences in the morphology of the forelegs. In the present investigation we address the correlation of spinning behaviour and sexual dimorphism in the spinning apparatus of Aposthonia ceylonica (Enderlein, 1912). To analyse spinning behaviour we conducted video observations of Ap. ceylonica in artificial habitats. We observed females and males alone as well as female–male pairs to cover possible effects of interactions between sexes. The morphology of the spinning apparatus was analysed and reconstructed using high resolution X-ray computed tomography (SRμCT). The observations show that during trials of 24 h adult males and females produce similar amounts of silk per body weight, despite the fact that adult males do not feed, perhaps due to modifications of their mandibles related to courtship that interfere with feeding. Spinning glands in males are distinctly smaller than in females in absolute values, which reflect the general size difference in females and males. Despite their smaller body size, the volumes of reservoirs of spinning glands are larger in males in relative as well as in absolute values. Together with spinning behaviour and the amount of silk production, this indicates that males produce and store gland secretions in the large reservoirs prior to their final moult for later use.