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, 216 (Pt 2), 164-70

Physical Gills in Diving Insects and Spiders: Theory and Experiment


Physical Gills in Diving Insects and Spiders: Theory and Experiment

Roger S Seymour et al. J Exp Biol.


Insects and spiders rely on gas-filled airways for respiration in air. However, some diving species take a tiny air-store bubble from the surface that acts as a primary O(2) source and also as a physical gill to obtain dissolved O(2) from the water. After a long history of modelling, recent work with O(2)-sensitive optodes has tested the models and extended our understanding of physical gill function. Models predict that compressible gas gills can extend dives up to more than eightfold, but this is never reached, because the animals surface long before the bubble is exhausted. Incompressible gas gills are theoretically permanent. However, neither compressible nor incompressible gas gills can support even resting metabolic rate unless the animal is very small, has a low metabolic rate or ventilates the bubble's surface, because the volume of gas required to produce an adequate surface area is too large to permit diving. Diving-bell spiders appear to be the only large aquatic arthropods that can have gas gill surface areas large enough to supply resting metabolic demands in stagnant, oxygenated water, because they suspend a large bubble in a submerged web.

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