The effect of discontinuous gas exchange on respiratory water loss in grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae) varies across an aridity gradient

Shu Ping Huang, Stav Talal, Amir Ayali, Eran Gefen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The significance of discontinuous gas-exchange cycles (DGC) in reducing respiratory water loss (RWL) in insects is contentious. Results from single-species studies are equivocal in their support of the classic 'hygric hypothesis' for the evolution of DGC, whereas comparative analyses generally support a link between DGC and water balance. In this study, we investigated DGC prevalence and characteristics and RWL in three grasshopper species (Acrididae, subfamily Pamphaginae) across an aridity gradient in Israel. In order to determine whether DGC contributes to a reduction in RWL, we compared the DGC characteristics and RWL associated with CO2 release (transpiration ratio, i.e. the molar ratio of RWL to CO2 emission rates) among these species. Transpiration ratios of DGC and continuous breathers were also compared intraspecifically. Our data show that DGC characteristics, DGC prevalence and the transpiration ratios correlate well with habitat aridity. The xericadapted Tmethis pulchripennis exhibited a significantly shorter burst period and lower transpiration ratio compared with the other two mesic species, Ocneropsis bethlemita and Ocneropsis lividipes. However, DGC resulted in significant water savings compared with continuous exchange in T. pulchripennis only. These unique DGC characteristics for T. pulchripennis were correlated with its significantly higher mass-specific tracheal volume. Our data suggest that the origin of DGC may not be adaptive, but rather that evolved modulation of cycle characteristics confers a fitness advantage under stressful conditions. This modulation may result from morphological and/or physiological modifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2510-2517
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


  • DGC
  • Hygric hypothesis
  • Insect
  • Respiration
  • Tracheal volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology


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