Water Costs of Gas Exchange by a Speckled Cockroach and a Darkling Beetle
School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 July 2020
Revised: 26 August 2020
Accepted: 10 September 2020
Published: 14 September 2020
Evaporative water loss during metabolic gas exchange is an unavoidable cost of living for terrestrial insects. This respiratory water cost of gas exchange (the ratio of respiratory water loss to metabolic rate) is suggested to depend on several factors, such as the mode of gas exchange (convection vs. diffusion), species habitat, body size and measurement conditions. We measured this cost for a blaberid cockroach and a tenebrionid beetle using flow-through respirometry. We controlled the factors that affect respiratory water cost of gas exchange, i.e., both species are similar in their mode of gas exchange (dominantly convective), habitat (relatively moist) and body size, and were measured at the same temperature. The cockroaches showed both continuous and discontinuous gas exchange patterns, which had a significantly different metabolic rate and respiratory water loss but the same respiratory water cost of gas exchange. The darkling beetles showed a continuous gas exchange pattern only, and their metabolic rate, respiratory water loss and respiratory water cost of gas exchange were equivalent to those cockroaches using continuous gas exchange. This finding from our study highlights that the respiratory water cost of gas exchange is similar between species, regardless of the gas exchange pattern used, when the confounding factors affecting this cost are controlled. However, the total evaporative water cost of gas exchange is much higher than the respiratory cost because cuticular water loss contributes considerably more to the overall evaporative water loss than respiratory water. We suggest that the total water cost of gas exchange is likely to be a more useful indicator of species distribution with respect to environmental aridity than just the respiratory water cost.