Watch This: Cicadas Kill Bacteria with Structures on Their Wings

By Breanna Draxler | March 5, 2013 10:42 am

Clanger or clear wing cicada (Psaltoda claripennis). Image courtesy of Arthur Chapman/Flickr

Cicadas don’t use antibacterial wing sanitizer, so how do these insects keep their wings free of bacteria? Hint: it’s structural.

The wings of the Clanger cicada kill certain bacteria by ripping their cell membranes. A pattern of pillar-like nanostructures on the wings’ surface put pressure on the bacterial cell membrane, causing it to stretch and eventually tear. In a study published in Biophysical Journal in February, researchers modeled this process for the first time. They say this is the first example of a species being able to kill bacteria with a physical structure alone.

Replicating this physical structure in bio-inspired synthetic design could eventually lead to the production of antibacterial surfaces that kill bacteria on contact. Watch the video to see a magnified rendering of how the nano-pillars lead to a bacterial cell’s demise.

Video footage courtesy of Sergey Pogodin et al/Biophysical Journal

“Triple Sun [Nonimx]” music courtesy of Coil/

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, Top Posts
  • Mariana Siegmann

    Very interesting!!!

  • Buddy199

    Life’s solutions never ceases to amaze. I find it hard to believe it’s all random molecules bouncing against eachother rather than direction intelligence of some kind inherent to matter itself.

  • Stephen Anderle

    Looks like the bacteria are tearing themselves apart on the structures. Note, Never sleep on a bed of nails!!

  • Peristroika

    Persuant to your message, Buddy, They have found multiple brains in Octopii, corresponding to each leg. It’s been shown that humans’ day to day function is not all centred on our brain. I, like you, think that life has its own laws, and develops outside of random genetic change. I think in the future, we’ll find that “survival of the fittest” or “natural selection” are only the beginning points to a beguiling set of laws that astound us at their insight of our needs and wants.

    • Emkay

      the key is time!..its hard to comprehend what can happen to an organism in ‘say, a million years, just the blink of an eye in the scheme of things..

  • Skrithurz

    I wonder if the ability bacteria have to adapt to adverse conditions is greater in the case of chemical weapons or “physical” ones.

  • chang kek ning I12001777

    if the structure of the wing be destroy then it couldnt kill bacteria anymore??

  • Matt Parkhur

    Beating the crap out of it. -Very nice.


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