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J Insect Physiol. 2010 May;56(5):551-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2009.03.009. Epub 2009 Apr 7.

Pump out the volume--The effect of tracheal and subelytral pressure pulses on convective gas exchange in a dung beetle, Circellium bacchus (Fabricus).

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School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Johannesburg, Wits 2050, South Africa.


Many flightless beetles like the large apterous dung beetle Circellium bacchus, possess a subelytral cavity (SEC) providing an extra air space below the elytra which connects to the tracheal system (TS) via metathoracic and abdominal spiracles. By measuring subelytral and intratracheal pressure as well as body movements and gas exchange simultaneously in a flow-through setup, we investigated the contribution of convection on Circellium respiratory gas exchange. No constriction phase was observed. TS and SEC pressures were always around atmospheric values. During interburst phase open abdominal spiracles and a leaky SEC led to small CO(2)-peaks on a continuous CO(2) baseline, driven by intermittent positive tracheal pressure peaks in anti-phase with small negative subelytral pressure peaks caused by dorso-ventral tergite action. Spiracle opening was accompanied by two types of body movements. Higher frequency telescoping body movements at the beginning of opening resulted in high amplitude SEC and TS pressure peaks. High frequency tergite movements caused subelytral pressure peaks and led to a saw tooth like CO(2) release pattern in a burst. We propose that during the burst open mesothoracic spiracles increase the compliance of the subelytral cavity allowing big volumes of tracheal air being pulled out by convection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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