The adhesive organ of the blowfly, Calliphora vomitoria: a functional approach (Diptera: Calliphoridae)



The external morphology of the terminal region of the fifth tarsal segment of the blowfly, Calliphora vomitoria (L.) has been studied using light and scanning electron microscopy (S.E.M.). The pulvilli, with their numerous tenent hairs of spatulate form projecting from the ventral surface, are responsible for adhesion to smooth surfaces. The two large claws are believed to be important in clinging to irregularities in surfaces. Two footplates, possibly sensory organs, lie in close association with the base of the large ventral seta, the empodium. Blowflies release a non-volatile lipid secretion on to the spatulate ends of the tenent hairs and this secretion is essential to the adhesion process on smooth surfaces. The force of adhesion has been measured for tethered blowflies on glass using both vertical and lateral pulls; lateral pulls gave much greater forces. It is concluded that surface tension of the lipid secretion under tenent hairs is sufficient to enable successful adhesion to smooth surfaces by blowflies.