Gas exchange patterns and water loss rates in the Table Mountain cockroach, Aptera fusca (Blattodea: Blaberidae)

Groenewald, Berlize ; Bazelet, Corinna S. ; Potter, C. Paige ; Terblanche, John S. (2013)

CITATION: Groenewald, B. et al. 2013. Gas exchange patterns and water loss rates in the Table Mountain cockroach, Aptera fusca (Blattodea: Blaberidae). Journal of Experimental Biology, 216: 3844-3853, doi: 10.1242/jeb.091199.

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The importance of metabolic rate and/or spiracle modulation for saving respiratory water is contentious. One major explanation for gas exchange pattern variation in terrestrial insects is to effect a respiratory water loss (RWL) saving. To test this, we measured the rates of CO2 and H2O release (Embedded Image and Embedded Image, respectively) in a previously unstudied, mesic cockroach, Aptera fusca, and compared gas exchange and water loss parameters among the major gas exchange patterns (continuous, cyclic, discontinuous gas exchange) at a range of temperatures. Mean Embedded Image, Embedded Image and Embedded Image per unit Embedded Image did not differ among the gas exchange patterns at all temperatures (P>0.09). There was no significant association between temperature and gas exchange pattern type (P=0.63). Percentage of RWL (relative to total water loss) was typically low (9.79±1.84%) and did not differ significantly among gas exchange patterns at 15°C (P=0.26). The method of estimation had a large impact on the percentage of RWL, and of the three techniques investigated (traditional, regression and hyperoxic switch), the traditional method generally performed best. In many respects, A. fusca has typical gas exchange for what might be expected from other insects studied to date (e.g. Embedded Image, Embedded Image, RWL and cuticular water loss). However, we found for A. fusca that Embedded Image expressed as a function of metabolic rate was significantly higher than the expected consensus relationship for insects, suggesting it is under considerable pressure to save water. Despite this, we found no consistent evidence supporting the conclusion that transitions in pattern type yield reductions in RWL in this mesic cockroach.

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