Transitions in insect respiratory patterns are controlled by changes in metabolic rate

J Insect Physiol. 2010 May;56(5):522-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2009.05.018. Epub 2009 Jun 21.


We examined the respiratory patterns of Rhodnius prolixus and Gromphadorhina portentosa as metabolic rates varied with temperature to determine whether insects transition from discontinuous (DGC), cyclical and continuous respiration as a response to increasing aerobic demand. Using flow through respirometry we: (1) determined the effects of temperature on metabolic rate; (2) objectively defined periods of spiracular closure; (3) observed whether there was a correlation between metabolic rate and length of spiracular closure. At low temperatures both species exhibit lengthy periods of spiracular closure reflecting a discontinuous respiratory pattern. As metabolic rate increased, periods of spiracular closure decreased and insects displayed a more cyclical pattern of respiration. As metabolic rates increased even further under the highest experimental temperatures, periods of spiracular closure decreased even more and a continuous respiratory pattern was employed by both species. Our results suggest that the three described respiratory patterns in insects are not distinct but are instead a continuum of respiratory responses driven by the metabolic demand experienced by the insect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Structures / physiology
  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Cockroaches / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena
  • Rhodnius / physiology*


  • Carbon Dioxide