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Oxygen-induced plasticity in tracheal morphology and discontinuous gas exchange cycles in cockroaches Nauphoeta cinerea


The function and mechanism underlying discontinuous gas exchange in terrestrial arthropods continues to be debated. Three adaptive hypotheses have been proposed to explain the evolutionary origin or maintenance of discontinuous gas exchange cycles (DGCs), which may have evolved to reduce respiratory water loss, facilitate gas exchange in high CO2 and low O2 micro-environments, or to ameliorate potential damage as a result of oversupply of O2. None of these hypotheses have unequivocal support, and several non-adaptive hypotheses have also been proposed. In the present study, we reared cockroaches Nauphoeta cinerea in selected levels of O2 throughout development, and examined how this affected growth rate, tracheal morphology and patterns of gas exchange. O2 level in the rearing environment caused significant changes in tracheal morphology and the exhibition of DGCs, but the direction of these effects was inconsistent with all three adaptive hypotheses: water loss was not associated with DGC length, cockroaches grew fastest in hyperoxia, and DGCs exhibited by cockroaches reared in normoxia were shorter than those exhibited by cockroaches reared in hypoxia or hyperoxia.

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We thank Art Woods, an anonymous referee, and Vincent Van Uitregt for their comments on a previous version of the manuscript, Natalie Schimpf for experimental assistance, and Candice Bywater for statistical advice. This research was supported by the Australian Research Council (project DP0879605). CRW is the recipient of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (project FT130101493).

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Correspondence to Craig R. White.

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Communicated by I. D. Hume.

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Bartrim, H., Matthews, P.G.D., Lemon, S. et al. Oxygen-induced plasticity in tracheal morphology and discontinuous gas exchange cycles in cockroaches Nauphoeta cinerea . J Comp Physiol B 184, 977–990 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00360-014-0862-8

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  • Breathing
  • Periodic ventilation
  • Metabolic rate
  • Hypoxia
  • Hyperoxia
  • Development