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J Insect Physiol. 2007 Jul;53(7):656-67. Epub 2007 May 4.

Mechanisms to reduce dehydration stress in larvae of the Antarctic midge, Belgica antarctica.

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Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University, 318 W. 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


The Antarctic midge, Belgica antarctica, is exposed to frequent periods of dehydration during its prolonged larval development in the cold and dry Antarctic environment. In this study, we determined the water requirements of the larvae and the mechanisms it exploits to reduce the stress of drying. Larvae lost water at an exceptionally high rate (>10%/h) and tolerated losing a high portion (>70%) of their water content. Larvae were unable to absorb water from subsaturated water vapor (< or = 0.98 a(v)) to replenish their water stores, thus this midge relies exclusively on the intake of liquid water to increase its pool of body water and maintain water balance. To reduce dehydration stress, the midge employed a variety of mechanisms. Behaviorally, the larvae suppressed water loss by clustering. In response to slow dehydration, glycerol concentration increased 2-fold and trehalose concentration increased 3-fold, responses that are known to decrease the rate of water loss and increase dehydration tolerance. No changes in the mass of cuticular lipids occurred in response to desiccation, but the observed shift to longer hydrocarbons likely contributes to reduced water loss as the larvae dehydrate. As the larvae dehydrated, their oxygen consumption rate dropped, resulting in a reduction of water loss by respiration. Lastly, one bout of slow dehydration also enhanced the larva's ability to survive subsequent dehydration, suggesting that the larvae have the capacity for drought acclimation. Thus, these hydrophilic midge larvae prevent dehydration by multiple mechanisms that collectively reduce the water loss rate and increase dehydration tolerance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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