Scientists in Tokyo fit a ladybird beetle with a transparent shell, which protects its wings, to study their complex folding mechanism. Stuart McDill reports.
The Ladybird's red shell with black dots is not only its trademark - it protects its wings and stops us seeing exactly how it folds and unfolds it's wings so quickly - until now This ladybird is sporting a transparent shell developed by a team from Tokyo University SOUNDBITE (Japanese) SCIENTIST, KAZUYA SAITO, SAYING: "The amazing thing about an insect's wing is that it isn't just capable of being small but it can open up in an instant and be folded back in in an instant." To study the mechanism the team needed a window on the wing - resorting to the same transparent resin used in fingernail boutiques Along with high speed cameras affording them a rare glimpse of nature's ingenuity. SOUNDBITE (Japanese) SCIENTIST, KAZUYA SAITO, SAYING: "I initially thought that I would discover a complex mechanism filled with joints, but what I observed was a very simple structure, and a wing frame that has no joints." The team believes the folding mechanism could help us in space SOUNDBITE (Japanese) SCIENTIST, KAZUYA SAITO, SAYING: "Solar panels for satellites or large-scales antennas need to be compact when being launched (into space). In recent years, space structures have become bigger, which is why there is increasing need for better folding mechanisms." The research may provide an innovative designing method - enabling the integration of both structural stability and deformability.