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Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 Dec;148(4):743-54. Epub 2007 Aug 22.

The role of the spiracles in gas exchange during development of Samia cynthia (Lepidoptera, Saturniidae).

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Department of Animal Physiology, Humboldt-University at Berlin, Philippstrasse 13, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


Spiracles and the tracheal system of insects allow effective delivery of respiratory gases. During development, holometabolous insects encounter large changes in the functional morphology of gas exchange structures. To investigate changes in respiratory patterns during development, CO2-release was measured in larvae, pre-pupae and pupae of Samia cynthia (Lepidoptera, Saturniidae). Gas exchange patterns showed great variability. Caterpillars had high metabolic rates and released carbon dioxide continuously. Pre-pupae and pupae showed typical discontinuous gas exchange cycles (DGC) at reduced metabolic rates. Changes in gas exchange patterns can partly be explained with low metabolic rates during pupation. Sequential blocking of spiracles in pre-pupae and pupae reduced spiracle conductance with tracheal conductance remaining unaffected. Analysis of gas exchange patterns indicates that caterpillars and pre-pupae use more than 14 spiracles simultaneously while pupae only use 8 to 10 spiracles. Total conductance is not a simple multiple of single spiracles, but may be gradually adaptable to gas exchange demands. Surprisingly, moth pupae showed a DGC if all except one spiracle were blocked. The huge conductance of single spiracles is discussed as a pre-adaptation to high metabolic demands at the beginning and the end of the pupal as well as in the adult stage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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