Metals, such as zinc and manganese, are found in the cuticle of insect structures that are adapted for cutting or piercing substrates. Termite mandibles, for instance, have metals in the cuticle, which provide increased hardening necessary for chewing on wood. Cicadas are known to oviposit (lay eggs) in woody branches. We hypothesized that cicadas have metals in the cuticle of their ovipositors, increasing individual fitness by strengthening the cuticle to improve successful oviposition into hard wood. Energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were used to determine the elemental composition of the cuticle of ovipositors of periodical and annual cicadas. We hypothesize that elemental distribution varies among different structures on the ovipositor and between genera. Manganese, calcium, and potassium, and other elements related to cuticle hardness were found in varying concentrations along ovipositors of all cicada species, with greater metal deposits at the distal regions.
Following this presentation, Kristen will have a poster on display from 2:45 - 3 p.m. in the Science & Nursing room 101 lobby.
Kristen Reiter is a graduating senior completing Bachelor’s degrees in Organismal Biology and Biological Anthropology. She will begin her Masters in Entomology at University of Illinois in the fall. Her research focuses on function and properties of small scale structures on insects. Her interests include reading, drawing, film, music, and critters.