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J Insect Physiol. 2005 May;51(5):565-73.

Prolonged maintenance of water balance by adult females of the American spider beetle, Mezium affine Boieldieu, in the absence of food and water resources.

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Department of Biology, Wittenberg University, Ward Street at North Wittenberg Avenue, Springfield, OH 45501, USA.


Moisture requirements were evaluated for female adults of spider beetles Mezium affine Boieldieu and Gibbium aequinoctiale Boieldieu to determine how they are differentially adapted for life in a dry environment. Features showing extreme desiccation resistance of M. affine were an impermeable cuticle wherein activation energies (43kJ/mol) were suppressed, daily water losses as little as 0.3%/day with an associated group effect, a low 64% water content and an impressive ability to survive nearly 3 months with no food and water. Behaviorally, the extended period of water stress and fasting was marked by long intervals of physical inactivity (quiescence), as though dead. These characteristics emphasizing water retention rather than gain are shared by G. aequinoctiale and reflect a typical xerophilic water balance profile. Water uptake was restricted to imbibing liquid, as evidenced by uptake of dye-stained droplets of free water and a critical equilibrium activity of 1.00a(v), where the inability to absorb water vapor from the air fails to equilibrate declining water levels (gain not equal to loss) except at saturation. Four-fold reduction in survival time within dry air and accelerated water loss rates with high activation energies for female adults of the closely related winged Prostephanus truncatus (Say) suggest that the enhanced water conservation of spider beetles is due, in part, to fusion of their elytra supplemented by entering into quiescence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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