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J Exp Biol. 2018 Oct 29;221(Pt 21). pii: jeb186338. doi: 10.1242/jeb.186338.

How temperature influences the viscosity of hornworm hemolymph.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.
Blacksburg High School, Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.


Hemolymph is responsible for the transport of nutrients and metabolic waste within the insect circulatory system. Circulation of hemolymph is governed by viscosity, a physical property, which is well known to be influenced by temperature. However, the effect of temperature on hemolymph viscosity is unknown. We used Manduca sexta larvae to measure hemolymph viscosity across a range of physiologically relevant temperatures. Measurements were taken from 0 to 45°C using a cone and plate viscometer in a sealed environmental chamber. Hemolymph viscosity decreased with increasing temperature, showing a 6.4-fold change (11.08 to 1.74 cP) across the temperature range. Viscosity values exhibited two behaviors, changing rapidly from 0 to 15°C and slowly from 17.5 to 45°C. To test the effects of large particulates (e.g. cells) on viscosity, we also tested hemolymph plasma alone. Plasma viscosity also decreased as temperature increased, but did not exhibit two slope regimes, suggesting that particulates strongly influence low-temperature shifts in viscosity values. These results suggest that as environmental temperatures decrease, insects experience dramatic changes in hemolymph viscosity, leading to altered circulatory flows or increased energetic input to maintain similar flows. Such physical effects represent a previously unrecognized factor in the thermal biology of insects.


Density; Insects; Manduca sexta; Plasma; Thermal biology

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