Using µCT in live larvae of a large wood-boring beetle to study tracheal oxygen supply during development

How respiratory structures vary with, or are constrained by, an animal's environment is of central importance to diverse evolutionary and comparative physiology hypotheses. To date, quantifying insect respiratory structures and their variation has remained challenging due to their microscopic size, hence only a handful of species have been examined. Several methods for imaging insect respiratory systems are available, in many cases however, the analytical process is lethal, destructive, time consuming and labour intensive. Here, we explore and test a different approach to measuring tracheal volume using X-ray micro-tomography (mu CT) scanning (at 15 mu m resolution) on living, sedated larvae of the cerambycid beetle Cacosceles newmannii across a range of body sizes at two points in development. We provide novel data on resistance of the larvae to the radiation dose absorbed during mu CT scanning, repeatability of imaging analyses both within and between time-points and, structural tracheal trait differences provided by different image segmentation methods. By comparing how tracheal dimension (reflecting metabolic supply) and basal metabolic rate (reflecting metabolic demand) increase with mass, we show that tracheal oxygen supply capacity increases during development at a comparable, or even higher rate than metabolic demand. Given that abundant gas delivery capacity in the insect respiratory system may be costly (due to e.g. oxygen toxicity or space restrictions), there are probably balancing factors requiring such a capacity that are not linked to direct tissue oxygen demand and that have not been thoroughly elucidated to date, including CO2 efflux. Our study provides methodological insights and novel biological data on key issues in rapidly quantifying insect respiratory anatomy on live insects.
Gas exchange, Trachea, µCT, Pest insect, Coleoptera, Methodology
Lehmann, P.; Javal, M.; Du Plessis, A.; Terblanche, J.S. (2021). Using µCT in live larvae of a large wood-boring beetle to study tracheal oxygen supply during development. Journal of Insect Physiology 130, 104199, 9 pages. DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2021.104199.