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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2006 Mar-Apr;79(2):333-43. Epub 2006 Feb 2.

Discontinuous gas exchange in insects: a clarification of hypotheses and approaches.

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Spatial, Physiological, and Conservation Ecology Group, Department of Botany and Zoology, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa.


Many adult and diapausing pupal insects exchange respiratory gases discontinuously in a three-phase discontinuous gas exchange cycle (DGC). We summarize the known biophysical characteristics of the DGC and describe current research on the role of convection and diffusion in the DGC, emphasizing control of respiratory water loss. We summarize the main theories for the evolutionary genesis (or, alternatively, nonadaptive genesis) of the DGC: reduction in respiratory water loss (the hygric hypothesis), optimizing gas exchange in hypoxic and hypercapnic environments (the chthonic hypothesis), the hybrid of these two (the chthonic-hygric hypothesis), reducing the toxic properties of oxygen (the oxidative damage hypothesis), the outcome of interactions between O(2) and CO(2) control set points (the emergent property hypothesis), and protection against parasitic invaders (the strolling arthropods hypothesis). We describe specific techniques that are being employed to measure respiratory water loss in the presence or absence of the DGC in an attempt to test the hygric hypothesis, such as the hyperoxic switch and H(2)O/CO(2) regression, and summarize specific areas of the field that are likely to be profitable directions for future research.

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