Thermal physiology changes as organisms grow and develop, but we do not understand what causes these ontogenetic shifts. According to the theory of oxygen-and capacity-limited thermal tolerance, an organism’s heat tolerance should change throughout ontogeny as its ability to deliver oxygen varies. As insects grow during an instar, their metabolic demand increases without a proportional increase in the size of tracheae that supply oxygen to the tissues. If oxygen delivery limits heat tolerance, the mismatch between supply and demand should make insects more susceptible to heat and hypoxia as they progress through an instar. We tested this hypothesis by measuring the heat tolerance of grasshoppers (Schistocerca americana) on the second and seventh days of the sixth instar, in either a normoxic or a hypoxic atmosphere (21% or 10% O2, respectively). As expected, heat tolerance decreased as grasshoppers grew larger. Yet contrary to expectation, hypoxia had no effect on heat tolerance across all stages and sizes. Although heat tolerance declines as grasshoppers grow, this pattern must stem from a mechanism other than oxygen limitation.
- Body size
- Heat tolerance
- Oxygen-and capacity-limited thermal tolerance (OCLTT)