Most of our understanding about the physiology of fasting and starvation comes from studies of vertebrates; however, for ethical reasons, studies that monitor vertebrates through the lethal endpoint are scant. Insects are convenient models to characterize the comparative strategies used to cope with starvation because they have diverse life histories and have evolved under the omnipresent challenge of food limitation. Moreover, we can study the physiology of starvation through its natural endpoint. In this study we raised populations of five species of insects (adult grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, and larval beetles and moths) on diets labeled with either 13C-palmitic acid or 13C-leucine to isotopically enrich the lipids or the proteins in their bodies, respectively. The insects were allowed to become postabsorptive and then starved. We periodically measured the δ13C of the exhaled breath to characterize how each species adjusted their reliance on endogenous lipids and proteins as energy sources. We found that starving insects employ a wide range of strategies for regulating lipid and protein oxidation. All of the insects except for the beetle larvae were capable of sharply reducing reliance on protein oxidation; however, this protein sparing strategy was usually unsustainable during the entire starvation period. All insects increased their reliance on lipid oxidation, but while some species (grasshoppers, cockroaches, and beetle larvae) were still relying extensively on lipids at the time of death, other species (crickets and moth larvae) allowed rates of lipid oxidation to return to prestarvation levels. Although lipids and proteins are critical metabolic fuels for both vertebrates and insects, insects apparently exhibit a much wider range of strategies for rationing these limited resources during starvation.
|Date made available||2016|