We unveiled the penile penetration mechanics of two earwig species, Echinosoma horridum, whose intromittent organ, termed virga, is extraordinarily long, and E. denticulatum, whose virga is conversely short. We characterised configuration, geometry, material and bending stiffness for both virga and spermatheca. The short virga of E. denticulatum has a material gradient with the stiffer base, whereas the long virga of E. horridum and the spermathecae of both species are homogeneously sclerotised. The long virga of E. horridum has a lower bending stiffness than the spermatheca. The virga of E. denticulatum is overall less flexible than the spermatheca. We compared our results to a previous study on the penetration mechanics of elongated beetle genitalia. Based on the comparison, we hypothesised that the lower stiffness of the male intromittent organ comparing to the corresponding female structure is a universal prerequisite for the penetration mechanics of the elongated intromittent organ in insects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas