Asymmetry between the dorsal and ventral digging valves of the female locust: function and mechanics

Shmuel Gershon, Benny Bar-On, Shai Sonnenreich, Amir Ayali, Bat El Pinchasik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The female locust is equipped with unique digging tools, namely two pairs of valves—a dorsal and a ventral—utilized for excavating an underground hole in which she lays her eggs. This apparatus ensures that the eggs are protected from potential predators and provides optimal conditions for successful hatching. The dorsal and the ventral valves are assigned distinct roles in the digging process. Specifically, the ventral valves primarily function as anchors during propagation, while the dorsal valves displace soil and shape the underground tunnel. Results: In this study, we investigated the noticeable asymmetry and distinct shapes of the valves, using a geometrical model and a finite element method. Our analysis revealed that although the two pairs of valves share morphological similarities, they exhibit different 3D characteristics in terms of absolute size and structure. We introduced a structural characteristic, the skew of the valve cross-section, to quantify the differences between the two pairs of valves. Our findings indicate that these structural variations do not significantly contribute to the valves’ load-bearing capabilities under external forces. Conclusions: The evolutionary development of the form of the female locust digging valves is more aligned with fitting their respective functions rather than solely responding to biomechanical support needs. By understanding the intricate features of these locust valves, and using our geometrical model, valuable insights can be obtained for creating more efficient and specialized tools for various digging applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


FundersFunder number
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftPO 1725/10–1
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft


    • Biomechanics
    • Digging
    • Finite element method
    • Geometry
    • Structure–function relationships


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