Respiratory and cuticular water loss in insects with continuous gas exchange: comparison across five ant species

J Insect Physiol. 2005 Dec;51(12):1295-305. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2005.07.008. Epub 2005 Sep 9.


Respiratory water loss (RWL) in insects showing continuous emission of CO(2) is poorly studied because few methodologies can measure it. Comparisons of RWL between insects showing continuous and discontinuous gas exchange cycles (DGC) are therefore difficult. We used two recently developed methodologies (the hyperoxic switch and correlation between water-loss and CO(2) emission rates) to compare cuticular permeabilities and rates of RWL in five species of ants, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) and four common native ant competitors. Our results showed that RWL in groups of ants with moderate levels of activity and continuous gas exchange were similar across the two measurement methods, and were similar to published values on insects showing the DGC. Furthermore, ants exposed to anoxia increased their total water loss rates by 50-150%. These results suggest that spiracular control under continuous gas exchange can be as effective as the DGC in reducing RWL. Finally, the mesic-adapted Argentine ant showed significantly higher rates of water loss and cuticular permeability compared to four ant species native to dry environments. Physiological limitations may therefore be responsible for restricting the distribution of this invasive species in seasonally dry environments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Ants / metabolism
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Species Specificity
  • Temperature
  • Water Loss, Insensible / physiology*


  • Carbon Dioxide