Insects are among the most successful of land-dwelling organisms; virtually no terrestrial community is without insects. This very extensive radiation throughout the spectrum of terrestrial environments indicates that insects have coped effectively with the most significant problem posed by this lifestyle, viz. dessication. Many, if not most, terrestrial environments are characterized by low relative humidities and, as a consequence, the activity of atmospheric water vapor is significantly less than the activity of tissue water. Thus, unless mechanisms for conservation of water are in place, significant water loss will cocur. Their small size and high surface to volume ratio exaggerate the problem of water loss in insects. In addition to behavioral adaptations, insects employ three structural adaptations to reduce dessication (Fig. 1). The outer surface of the insect cuticle is covered by a waxy layer which is largely impervious to water, the respiratory surfaces are internalized and, in all insects except those restricted to extremely humid environments, the openings of the respiratory system to the surrounding atmosphere can be kept closed except when gas exchange is actually taking place. The effectiveness of sealing off the openings of the respiratory system, i.e. the spiracles, and of the waxy cuticular coating in conserving water has been known for some years and has been demonstrated in a number of insect species (see e.g., Buck, 1962).


Tracheal System Close Muscle Prothoracic Ganglion Myogenic Mechanism Adult Dragonfly 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Kaars
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Neurobiology Department of PhysiologyState University of New YorkUSA

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