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The mechanical evolution from biting-chewing to piercing-sucking in insects

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "MECH-EVO-INSECT" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
city: KOELN
postcode: 50931

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country Germany [DE]
 Total cost 1˙499˙891 €
 EC max contribution 1˙499˙891 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2017-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2018
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2018-02-01   to  2023-01-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    UNIVERSITAET ZU KOELN DE (KOELN) coordinator 1˙499˙891.00


 Project objective

Insects are extremely efficient feeders that impact on the world's ecosystems and our agriculture with their feeding capabilities. Insects evolved diverse mouthpart types during ~400 million years of evolution which allowed them to conquer many food recourses. How this feeding system evolved, in particular the transition from one mouthpart type to the other, is unclear. My idea represents the first extensive assessment of insect head mechanics applying latest semi-automatic workflows and engineering approaches to unravel the factors driving insect mouthpart evolution and performance. Specifically, I will study the mechanical evolution from early biting-chewing to piercing-sucking mouthparts and head types, considering recent as well as fossil species. In contrast to earlier studies, I aim to quantify mechanical evolution for the whole head which has never been attempted before for insects. This will be done using engineering software to simulate insect feeding, followed by 3D shape analysis and finally evolutionary modelling using algorithms based on likelihood models of evolutionary processes. The project is therefore positioned at the interconnection between experimental biology, engineering and biological simulation. The results will impact our understanding of insect evolution, with the project identifying which mechanical factors made insects such extraordinarily successful feeders, and why their mouthparts evolved into so many different types. To achieve an integrative understanding, my idea will furthermore take into account ecological, evolutionary and life history factors. Understanding the mechanical head evolution has never been tried before in a systematic way at this scale. However, my project idea also delivers results for industry: Since modern engineering methods are used, the results can be readily exported to the industry for the design of lighter robot arms with better lifting capabilities, thus advancing robotic techniques.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2018 Sabrina Simon, Alexander Blanke, Karen Meusemann
Reanalyzing the Palaeoptera problem – The origin of insect flight remains obscure
published pages: 328-338, ISSN: 1467-8039, DOI: 10.1016/j.asd.2018.05.002
Arthropod Structure & Development 47/4 2019-10-01
2018 Alexander Blanke
Analysis of modularity and integration suggests evolution of dragonfly wing venation mainly in response to functional demands
published pages: 20180277, ISSN: 1742-5689, DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2018.0277
Journal of The Royal Society Interface 15/145 2019-10-01
2018 A. Blanke, M. Pinheiro, P. J. Watson, M. J. Fagan
A biomechanical analysis of prognathous and orthognathous insect head capsules: evidence for a many-to-one mapping of form to function
published pages: 665-674, ISSN: 1010-061X, DOI: 10.1111/jeb.13251
Journal of Evolutionary Biology 31/5 2019-10-01
2018 Kazunori Yoshizawa, Yoshitaka Kamimura, Charles Lienhard, Rodrigo L Ferreira, Alexander Blanke
A biological switching valve evolved in the female of a sex-role reversed cave insect to receive multiple seminal packages
published pages: , ISSN: 2050-084X, DOI: 10.7554/elife.39563
eLife 7 2019-10-01

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