Stereological determination of tracheal volume and diffusing capacity of the tracheal walls in the stick insect Carausius morosus (Phasmatodea, Lonchodidae)

Physiol Biochem Zool. Mar-Apr 1999;72(2):205-18. doi: 10.1086/316655.


First instars of Carausius morosus provide a good model for morphometric evaluation of the diffusing capacity between the tracheal system and hemolymph: air sacs are lacking, tracheoles do not penetrate the organs and muscles, and entire animals can be evaluated electron microscopically without subsampling. The tracheal volume makes up 1.3% of the volume of the whole insect excluding appendages. We calculated the lateral diffusing capacity for oxygen and carbon dioxide for five classes of tracheae according to their diameters, from 0.2 microm to 35 microm. The harmonic mean thickness of the tracheal epithelium is lowest in smallest tracheae and increases with increasing tracheal diameter. Although the smallest tracheae make up 70% (O2) and 60% (CO2) of the total diffusing capacity, the proximal four classes may also be significant in diffusion of oxygen and particularly of carbon dioxide. The suppression of the development of respiratory pigments in the evolution of terrestrial insects may have increased the relative importance of small tracheal elements for local oxygen consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biometry
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Respiration
  • Trachea / anatomy & histology*
  • Trachea / physiology


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oxygen