, Volume 181, Issue 5, pp 595-601
Date: 16 Feb 2011

Increased cave dwelling reduces the ability of cave crickets to resist dehydration

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Differential strategies for maintaining water balance are reported for female adults of three cave crickets Hadenoecus cumberlandicus, H. opilionoides and H. jonesi, a species replacement series along the Cumberland Plateau in the southeastern United States. The distribution of H. cumberlandicus is much broader than the range of H. opilionoides, which is much smaller in body size, and that of H. jonesi, which possesses enhanced troglomorphic (cave dwelling) characteristics. Due to high net transpiration (water loss) rates and increased activation energies, H. jonesi and H. opilionoides are more susceptible to dehydration than H. cumberlandicus. To avoid dehydration, H. opilionoides and H. jonesi require more moisture than H. cumberlandicus to counter their higher rates of water loss. The heightened reliance on moisture likely indicates that the more troglomorphic H. jonesi and smaller H. opilionoides are required to spend more time in the moist cave region. Reliance on the cave for H. cumberlandicus is presumably less, allowing them to function in epigean habitats for longer periods and disperse to nearby caves, likely accounting for the more expansive distribution of this cricket. While in the cave habitat, cave crickets are exposed to water-saturated conditions, reducing the pressure of dehydration stress the longer a species remains in this wet environment. This reduced pressure leads to higher water loss rates as cave confinement increases. We conclude that increasing water loss rates associated with increasing troglomorphic adaptation in cave crickets is a side effect of extended residence in stable moist cave environments.

Communicated by I.D. Hume.