Desiccation resistance and water balance in southern African keratin beetles (Coleoptera, Trogidae): The influence of body size and habitat

M. D. Le Lagadec, S. L. Chown, C. H. Scholtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Desiccation resistance and water balance were examined in the adults of seven trogid species, which differed both in body size and in the habitats from which they were collected. Body water contents (51-58% fresh mass) and desiccation rates at 27 °C (0.00026-0.00093 g h-1) in these species were very similar to those of unrelated, similar-sized beetles from arid habitats. The keratin beetles differed markedly from many other adult Coleoptera by virtue of their very high haemolymph osmolality and inability to regulate haemolymph osmolality, and to catabolise lipids for water production, during desiccation. Like most other insects, the xeric trogid species had lower rates of water loss and longer survival times than trogids from mesic areas. This was due both to lower rates of water loss and to the larger body size of species from the more arid areas. Because absolute body water content was higher in large beetles than in small ones, larger body size conferred higher desiccation resistance on the very large Kalahari desert species. This suggests that there may be strong selection for large body size in such insects from arid areas. Most ecological and ecophysiological investigations of geographical variation in body size, and the species-body size distribution, have focused on temperature and metabolic rate as explanatory variables. This study suggests that attention should also be given to desiccation resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-122
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology - B Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Dehydration
  • Lipid catabolism
  • Osmoregulation
  • Scarabaeoidea

Cite this