Discontinuous gas exchange and water loss in the keratin beetle Omorgus radula: Further evidence against the water conservation hypothesis?

M. Bosch, S. L. Chown, C. H. Scholtz

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Discontinuous gas exchange cycles are demonstrated in Omorgus radula (Erichson) (Coleoptera, Trogidae) for the first time, thus extending evidence for such cycles to another family of beetles. The closed, flutter and open phases of the cycle were clearly distinguishable in this species, and the duration of these phases was 221 ± 28, 1403 ± 148 and 755 ± 43 s (mean ± SE), respectively. No evidence for significant intraspecific mass scaling of VCO2 or any of the components of the cycle was found. Although the prolonged F-phase recorded here is unusual for many insects, it has previously been found in other scarabaeoid beetles, especially those from xeric environments. It has been suggested that such modulation of the discontinuous gas exchange cycle may result in a reduced VCO2 and, consequently, reduced water loss. In O. radula VCO2 (15.25 ± 1.49 μl/h) was considerably lower than that predicted from its body mass (0.207 ± 0.006g). However, the small relative contribution of respiratory transpiration (6.5%) to total water loss indicated that reduced VCO2 has little to do with water economy. Rather, it may be a consequence of generally low activity levels of these beetles. The low respiratory water loss, but distinct subterranean component in the adult life of O. radula, lend some credence to the hypothesis suggesting that regular use of subterranean habitats might have been responsible for the evolution of discontinuous gas exchange cycles. However, non-adaptive hypotheses can still not be discounted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-314
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Discontinuous gas exchange
  • Respiratory metabolism
  • Transpiration
  • Water loss

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