Neurobiology of Planthoppers

Planthoppers and their allies (“Kleinzikaden” in German) represent a large group within the insect order Hemiptera. Studies on the neurobiology of these insects are very rare, most likely due to their small size and hidden lifestyle. In contrast to the closely related large cicadas, most planthoppers (as well as leafhoppers and froghoppers) are only a few mm in length.

Several years ago it was shown that froghoppers are the champion jumpers of the animal kingdom1. Together with the Burrows lab we studied the neuromuscular apparatus enabling these insects to perform this feat2-4. During the course of these studies we became aware of strange sense organs on the nymphs of planthoppers. After elucidating the anatomy of these sense organs5, together with the Prof. Baumgartner’s group in Linz we are currently investigating the physiology of these organs and potential biomimetic applications.

In collaboration with Prof. Hoch in Berlin and Dr. Sombke in Greifswald we investigate several other neurobiological and morphological adaptations in this group of insects.

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Reference

  1. Burrows, M. (2003) Froghopper insects leap to new heights – An innovative leaping action propels these bugs to the top of the insect athletic league. Nature 424:509
  2. Burrows, M. and Bräunig, P. (2010) Actions of motor neurons and leg muscles in jumping by planthopper insects (Hemiptera, Issidae). J. Comp. Neurol. 518:1349-1369
  3. Bräunig, P. and Burrows, M. (2008) Neurons controlling jumping in froghopper insects. J. Comp. Neurol. 507:1065-1075
  4. Burrows, M., Meinertzhagen, I. A., and Bräunig, P. (2014) Slowly contracting muscles power the rapid jumping of planthopper insects (Hemiptera, Issidae) Cell Tissue Res. 355:213-222
  5. Bräunig, P., Krumpholz, K., and Baumgartner, W. (2012) Sensory pits – Enigmatic sense organs of the nymphs of the planthopper Issus coleoptratus (Auchenorrhyncha, Fulgoromorpha) Arthropod Struct.Dev. 41:443-458