Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Indirect actuation reduces flight power requirements in Manduca sexta via elastic energy exchange


Gau, Jeff; Gravish, Nick; Sponberg, Simon (2020), Indirect actuation reduces flight power requirements in Manduca sexta via elastic energy exchange, Dryad, Dataset,


In many insects, wing movements are generated indirectly via exoskeletal deformations. Measurements of inertial and aerodynamic power suggest that elastic recovery of energy between wingstrokes might reduce power requirements of flight. We tested three questions. 1) Can the thorax itself provide significant energy return? 2) Does a simple damped elastic model describe the bulk mechanical behavior? and 3) Are different regions of the thorax specialized for elastic energy exchange? We measured deformation mechanics of the hawkmoth Manduca sexta thorax by recording the force required to sinusoidally deform the thorax over a wide frequency range. Elastic energy storage in the thorax is sufficient to minimize power requirements. However, we find that a structural (frequency-independent) damping model, not a viscoelastic model, best describes the thorax's mechanical properties. We next performed complementary experiments on a structurally damped homogeneous hemisphere. In contrast to the hemispherical shell, we find that mechanical coupling between different regions of the thorax improves energy exchange performance, and that local mechanical properties depend on global strain patterns. Specifically, the scutum region provides energy recovery with low dissipation, while the majority of energy loss occurred in the wing hinge region, highlighting the specificity of thorax regions for flight energetics. 

Usage Notes

This dataset contains raw dynamic mechanical testing data from Manduca sexta thoraxes and ping pong balls. All necessary information to use the data is contained in the ReadMe.


National Science Foundation, Award: 1554790

National Science Foundation, Award: 1205878