Mass and volume growth of an insect tracheal system within a single instar

Bryan R. Helm, Goggy Davidowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Organisms must accommodate oxygen delivery to developing tissues as body mass increases during growth. In insects, the growth of the respiratory system has been assumed to occur only during molts, whereas body mass and volume increase during the larval stages between molts. This decouples whole-body growth from the growth of the oxygen supply system. This assumption is derived from the observation that the insect respiratory system is an invagination of the exoskeleton, which must be shed during molts for continued growth to occur. Here, we provide evidence that this assumption is incorrect. We found that the respiratory system increases substantially in both mass and volume within the last larval instar of Manduca sexta larvae, and that the growth of the respiratory system changes with diet quality, potentially as a consequence of shifting metabolic demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4703-4711
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Larval growth
  • Manduca sexta
  • Respiratory development
  • Tracheae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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