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J Insect Physiol. 2010 May;56(5):536-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2009.08.003. Epub 2009 Aug 25.

Tradeoffs between metabolic rate and spiracular conductance in discontinuous gas exchange of Samia cynthia (Lepidoptera, Saturniidae).

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Humboldt-Universit├Ąt zu Berlin, Department of Animal Physiology, Systems Neurobiology and Neural Computation, Philippstrasse 13, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


The insect tracheal system is a unique respiratory system, designed for maximum oxygen delivery at high metabolic demands, e.g. during activity and at high ambient temperatures. Therefore, large safety margins are required for tracheal and spiracular conductance. Spiracles are the entry to the tracheal system and play an important role in controlling discontinuous gas exchange (DGC) between tracheal system and atmosphere in moth pupae. We investigated the effect of modulated metabolic rate (by changing ambient temperature) and modulated spiracular conductance (by blocking all except one spiracles) on gas exchange patterns in Samia pupae. Both, spiracle blocking and metabolic rates, affected respiratory behavior in Samia cynthia pupae. While animals showed discontinuous gas exchange cycles at lower temperatures with unblocked spiracles, the respiratory patterns were cyclic at higher temperatures, with partly blocked spiracles or a combination of these two factors. The threshold for the transition from a discontinuous (DGC) to a cyclic gas exchange ((cyc)GE) was significantly higher in animals with unblocked spiracles (18.7 nmol g(-1) min(-1) vs. 7.9 nmol g(-1) min(-1)). These findings indicate an important influence of spiracle conductance on the DGC, which may occur mostly in insects showing high spiracular conductances and low metabolic rates.

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