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J Insect Physiol. 2004 Jan;50(1):5-15.

The importance of cuticular permeability, osmolyte production and body size for the desiccation resistance of nine species of Collembola.

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  • 1Department of Terrestrial Ecology, NERI, Vejlsoevej 25, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark.


Euedaphic collembolans have recently been shown to actively regulate internal osmotic pressure by means of sugars and polyols in response to desiccation. In contrast, studies of cuticular permeability have shown that some, especially epedaphic, species of collembolans may primarily rely on a low cuticular permeability to survive desiccation. To elucidate to what extent these strategies are important for desiccation resistance, the survival of 7-day acute desiccation stress (LRH(50)), the cuticular water conductance constant and osmolyte production were investigated in nine species of collembolans, covering euedaphic, hemiedaphic and epedaphic species. The LRH(50) values ranging from 98.8% to 95.2% RH showed no correlation with the vertical distribution of species, since both the highest and lowest values were found in epedaphic species. The water conductance varied from 698+/-141 to 41+/-13 microg h(-1) cm(-2) mmHg(-1) and showed good agreement with the vertical distribution of species in their natural habitats. Modelling the drying curves showed that, in addition to cuticular permeability and osmolyte production, body size also plays an important role in the survival of short-term severe desiccation stress. Furthermore, the model pointed to the need for behavioural responses to desiccation, particularly in epedaphic species. Thus, in keeping with expected humidity regimes in their respective microhabitats, euedaphic species rely on small body size, high cuticular permeability and the ability to actively regulate the osmotic pressure of their body fluids, hemiedaphic species have similar strategies but with reduced cuticular permeability, whereas in epedaphic species, active regulation of osmotic pressure is replaced by combinations of greatly reduced cuticular permeability or greatly reduced surface area to volume ratio combined with behavioural responses to desiccation.

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