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Molting effects oxygen consumption in a common mayfly

Published On: 10/16/2014

Molting mayflies hold their breath, have their lungs ripped out and then gasp for breath.

Oxygen consumption by molting mayflies (Cloeon dipterum) was recently reported in a study by graduate student Allison Camp (North Carolina State University), David Funk (Stroud Water Research Center) and David Bushwalter (NCSU). Entomologists have long understood that tracheal linings are torn out by the molting exoskeleton, but the effect on respiration by insects had not been studied. In the mayfly study, molting caused an erratic pattern in oxygen consumption: in the hours leading up to molting, mayfly larvae consumed higher levels of oxygen than normal. They paused breathing while the exoskeleton molted, then gasped for breath to compensate for this period of low oxygen consumption. The process of molting was also influenced by temperature. The magnitude of change in oxygen consumption was more extreme at higher temperatures. This suggests that survival rates of molting mayflies may be detrimentally affected by increased temperatures associated with climate change or habitat modification.

View the article in Freshwater Science and a related story in Science News

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