The deleterious effects of anoxia followed by reperfusion with oxygen in higher animals including mammals are well known. A convenient and genetically well characterized small-animal model that exhibits reproducible, quantifiable oxygen reperfusion damage is currently lacking. Here we describe the dynamics of whole-organism metabolic recovery from anoxia in an insect, Drosophila melanogaster, and report that damage caused by oxygen reperfusion can be quantified in a novel but straightforward way. We monitored CO(2) emission (an index of mitochondrial activity) and water vapor output (an index of neuromuscular control of the spiracles, which are valves between the outside air and the insect's tracheal system) during entry into, and recovery from, rapid-onset anoxia exposure with durations ranging from 7.5 to 120 minutes. Anoxia caused a brief peak of CO(2) output followed by knock-out. Mitochondrial respiration ceased and the spiracle constrictor muscles relaxed, but then re-contracted, presumably powered by anaerobic processes. Reperfusion to sustained normoxia caused a bimodal re-activation of mitochondrial respiration, and in the case of the spiracle constrictor muscles, slow inactivation followed by re-activation. After long anoxia durations, both the bimodality of mitochondrial reactivation and the recovery of spiracular control were impaired. Repeated reperfusion followed by episodes of anoxia depressed mitochondrial respiratory flux rates and damaged the integrity of the spiracular control system in a dose-dependent fashion. This is the first time that physiological evidence of oxygen reperfusion damage has been described in an insect or any invertebrate. We suggest that some of the traditional approaches of insect respiratory biology, such as quantifying respiratory water loss, may facilitate using D. melanogaster as a convenient, well-characterized experimental model for studying the underlying biology and mechanisms of ischemia and reperfusion damage and its possible mitigation.