The unusual tracheal system within the wing membrane of a dragonfly
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Some consider that the first winged insects had living tissue inside the wing membrane, resembling larval gills or developing wing pads. However, throughout the developmental process of the wing membrane of modem insects, cells and tracheoles in the lumen between dorsal and ventral cuticle disappear and both cuticles become fused. This process results in the rather thin rigid stable structure of the membrane. The herewith described remarkable case of the dragonfly Zenithoptera lanei shows that in some highly specialized wings, the membrane can still be supplemented by tracheae. Such a characteristic of the wing membrane presumably represents a strong specialization for the synthesis of melanin-filled nanolayers of the cuticle, nanospheres inside the wing membrane and complex arrangement of wax crystals on the membrane surface, all responsible for unique structural coloration.