Respiratory dynamics of discontinuous gas exchange in the tracheal system of the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria

Groenewald B. ; Hetz S.K. ; Chown S.L. ; Terblanche J.S. (2012)

Article

Gas exchange dynamics in insects is of fundamental importance to understanding evolved variation in breathing patterns, such as discontinuous gas exchange cycles (DGCs). Most insects do not rely solely on diffusion for the exchange of respiratory gases but may also make use of respiratory movements (active ventilation) to supplement gas exchange at rest. However, their temporal dynamics have not been widely investigated. Here, intratracheal pressure, V̇ CO2 and body movements of the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria were measured simultaneously during the DGC and revealed several important aspects of gas exchange dynamics. First, S. gregaria employs two different ventilatory strategies, one involving dorso-ventral contractions and the other longitudinal telescoping movements. Second, although a true spiracular closed (C)-phase of the DGC could be identified by means of subatmospheric intratracheal pressure recordings, some CO 2 continued to be released. Third, strong pumping actions do not necessarily lead to CO 2 release and could be used to ensure mixing of gases in the closed tracheal system, or enhance water vapour reabsorption into the haemolymph from fluid-filled tracheole tips by increasing the hydrostatic pressure or forcing fluid into the haemocoel. Finally, this work showed that the C-phase of the DGC can occur at any pressure. These results provide further insights into the mechanistic basis of insect gas exchange. © 2012. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

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