Medicinal leeches use their suction discs for locomotion, adhesion to the host and, in the case of the anterior disc, also for blood ingestion. The biomechanics of their suction-based adhesion systems has been little understood until now. We investigated the functional morphology of the anterior and posterior suckers of Hirudo verbana by using light and scanning electron microscopy. Furthermore, we analysed the adhesion qualitatively and quantitatively by conducting behavioural and mechanical experiments. Our high-speed video analyses provide new insights into the attachment and detachment processes and we present a detailed description of the leech locomotion cycle. Pull-off force measurements of the anterior and posterior suction organs on seven different substrates under both aerial and water-submersed conditions reveal a significant influence of the surrounding medium, the substrate surface roughness and the tested organ on attachment forces and tenacities.
- Received February 1, 2016.
- Accepted March 24, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
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