Why do insects legs fold when they die?

21 January 2007

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Question

How is it that when an insect such as a ladybird dies, it folds it's 6 legs up under itself. Why does it do that and what's the underlying mechanism?

Answer

I imagine it's something to do with the weight of the wing cases of the ladybird, that weigh it down and cause it to collapse, and also something to do with the muscle structure. When they die they relax and the tendons and things must retract the legs. When insects die there is also an element of drying, and dried things tend to shrink a bit and contract and go into their most compact shape

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