The relationship between body size and flight power output in the mango stem borer (Batocera rufomaculata)

Tomer Urca, Gal Ribak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adult body size in insects can be influenced by environmental conditions during larval growth. The effect of such intraspecific variation in body mass on flight performance is poorly understood. In Batocera rufomaculata, a large tree boring beetle, adults emerging from larvae that developed in a dying host tree, and therefore, under nutrient-deprived diet conditions, are smaller but have an elevated long-distance flight capability compared to larger conspecifics that developed in viable host trees. The improved endurance for long-distance flight in the smaller individuals appears to contradict the interspecific trend in flying animals of a decrease in Cost of Transport (CoT) with increased body mass. To explore the relationship between intraspecific variation in body size and power expended during steady forward flight, we flew these beetles tethered in a wind tunnel and compared the flapping kinematics and power output of individuals varying in body mass (1–7 gr). Concurrently, we measured the forces the insects applied on the tether allowing us to evaluate the tethering effects and correct for them. From the flapping kinematics we estimated the mechanical power expended using a quasi-steady blade-element model. We found that muscle mass-specific power did not differ between small and large individuals flying at the same wind (flight) speed in the tunnel. Consequently, the CoT of B. rufomaculata does not vary with body mass. Such invariance of mass-specific power with body mass may aid the dispersal of smaller individuals from deteriorating host trees to new ones.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104290
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Aerodynamics
  • Body size
  • Drag
  • Flapping-flight
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Life history
  • Lift
  • Locomotion
  • Power

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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