Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

The Naturalist's Apprentice
Michael Jeffords 

The Legs Have It!


Objective: to understand the relationship between insect leg shape and function


Materials: multiple copies of The Legs Have It!


Vocabulary: cursorial, raptorial, natatorial, fossorial, saltatorial, coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, tarsus, pretarsus

Comments: Most insects have three pairs of legs, one pair on each segment of the thorax. Each leg has six different parts: the coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, tarsus, and pretarsus. This edition of The Naturalist's Apprentice looks at how insect legs are adapted to perform different functions in nature. The most primitive type of insect leg is used for walking or running. Over the 300 million years or so that insects have been around, their generalized walking legs have become adapted for a wide variety of functions, such as grasping, jumping, digging, and swimming.



1. Introduce the subject of insect locomotion by talking about the insect leg.


2. Distribute copies of The Legs Have It! and have students match the description in column 1 with the correct insect/leg picture in column 2.Answers:

1. digging and walking

2. swimming

3. jumping

4. walking

5. grasping

6. digging and running

7. swimming

8. jumping

9. walking

10. grasping and swimming


 3. Have students learn to pronounce and spell the scientific terms for the various types of leg functions.


Insect legs are specialized for various functions. Study the two columns below and match the leg description with the insect that has that type of leg. There may be more than one answer for each insect.



Please report any problems with or suggestions about this page to: 
Subject: INHSPUB-2159
Last Modified 3/19/96

Illinois Natural History Survey

1816 South Oak Street, MC 652
Champaign, IL 61820

Terms of use. Email the Web Administrator with questions or comments.

© 2019 University of Illinois Board of Trustees. All rights reserved.
For permissions information, contact the Illinois Natural History Survey.

Staff Intranet