The mechanisms underlying the production of discontinuous gas exchange cycles in insects

Journal of Comparative Physiology. B, Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Philip G D Matthews


This review examines the control of gas exchange in insects, specifically examining what mechanisms could explain the emergence of discontinuous gas exchange cycles (DGCs). DGCs are gas exchange patterns consisting of alternating breath-hold periods and bouts of gas exchange. While all insects are capable of displaying a continuous pattern of gas exchange, this episodic pattern is known to occur within only some groups of insects and then only sporadically or during certain phases of their life cycle. Investigations into DGCs have tended to emphasise the role of chemosensory thresholds in triggering spiracle opening as critical for producing these gas exchange patterns. However, a chemosensory basis for episodic breathing also requires an as-of-yet unidentified hysteresis between internal respiratory stimuli, chemoreceptors, and the spiracles. What has been less appreciated is the role that the insect's central nervous system (CNS) might play in generating episodic patterns of ventilation. The active ventilation displayed by many insects during DGCs suggests that this pattern could be the product of directed control by the CNS rather than arising passively as a result of self-sustaining oscillations in internal oxygen and carbo...Continue Reading


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