Matching Items (8)

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Breathe Big Beetle: Despite Hypermetry, Scarab Spiracle Scaling Requires Switch from Diffusive to Convective Gas Exchange

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One hypothesis for why insects are smaller than vertebrates is that the blind-ended tracheal respiratory system challenges oxygen delivery for larger insects. Supporting this hypothesis, several studies have documented that

One hypothesis for why insects are smaller than vertebrates is that the blind-ended tracheal respiratory system challenges oxygen delivery for larger insects. Supporting this hypothesis, several studies have documented that larger insect species have larger gas transport structures than expected by isometric scaling. To further test this hypothesis, we performed the first inter-specific study of the scaling of spiracle size, using ten scarab beetle species, including some of the most massive insects. Using micro-CT, we measured the cross sectional area and depth of all eight spiracles. Areas of large spiracles in the anterior portion of the animal showed hypermetric scaling, varying approximately with mass^0.8. However, because diffusive capacities scaled with lower slopes than metabolic rates, larger beetles had a 10-fold higher required PO2 gradient across the spiracles to sustain oxygen consumption by diffusion. Despite this trend, calculations suggest that large beetles can exchange oxygen by diffusion across the spiracles at rest, but likely no beetles can do so during flight. Advective capacities through the spiracles scale with mass^1.8, suggestive of a switch toward greater use of convection and/or reduced required pressures in larger beetles.

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  • 2017-05

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Variation in reflective flow and forager navigation, but not traffic rate, explain speed of obstruction circumnavigation on Atta colombica foraging trails

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Many species follow networked roads. When roads are blocked, the obstruction must be circumnavigated, or traffic rerouted. We obstructed trails of the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica and compared individual- and

Many species follow networked roads. When roads are blocked, the obstruction must be circumnavigated, or traffic rerouted. We obstructed trails of the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica and compared individual- and group-level circumnavigation as well as trail reuse following obstruction removal. Groups that circumnavigated the obstruction fastest were also the first to return to the original trail once the obstruction was removed. Also, nestward ants returned to using the original trail more quickly than outbound ants. Traffic rate was not related to speed of obstacle solving. The magnitude of reflective flow (reversing direction) explained much of the variation in obstacle-solving time, both comparing nestward versus outbound ants and variation across obstacles. Two other factors explaining variation in obstacle circumnavigation times were percentage of nestward ants carrying leaves and whether ants searched in the appropriate direction for the trail beyond the obstruction, possibly due to variation in the availability of navigation cues or motivation. Reflective flow allows highly-networked leafcutter trails to respond to blockages by using alternative cleared routes, with strength of navigation cues and motivation linked to foraging costs and benefits likely determining the effort expended to “solve” the obstacle versus give up.

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  • 2020-05

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Metabolic and behavioral integration in social insect colonies

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In social insect colonies, as with individual animals, the rates of biological processes scale with body size. The remarkable explanatory power of metabolic allometry in ecology and evolutionary biology derives

In social insect colonies, as with individual animals, the rates of biological processes scale with body size. The remarkable explanatory power of metabolic allometry in ecology and evolutionary biology derives from the great diversity of life exhibiting a nonlinear scaling pattern in which metabolic rates are not proportional to mass, but rather exhibit a hypometric relationship with body size. While one theory suggests that the supply of energy is a major physiological constraint, an alternative theory is that the demand for energy is regulated by behavior. The central hypothesis of this dissertation research is that increases in colony size reduce the proportion of individuals actively engaged in colony labor with consequences for energetic scaling at the whole-colony level of biological organization. A combination of methods from comparative physiology and animal behavior were developed to investigate scaling relationships in laboratory-reared colonies of the seed-harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex californicus. To determine metabolic rates, flow-through respirometry made it possible to directly measure the carbon dioxide production and oxygen consumption of whole colonies. By recording video of colony behavior, for which ants were individually paint-marked for identification, it was possible to reconstruct the communication networks through which information is transmitted throughout the colony. Whole colonies of P. californicus were found to exhibit a robust hypometric allometry in which mass-specific metabolic rates decrease with increasing colony size. The distribution of walking speeds also scaled with colony size so that larger colonies were composed of relatively more inactive ants than smaller colonies. If colonies were broken into random collections of workers, metabolic rates scaled isometrically, but when entire colonies were reduced in size while retaining functionality (queens, juveniles, workers), they continued to exhibit a metabolic hypometry. The communication networks in P. californicus colonies contain a high frequency of feed-forward interaction patterns consistent with those of complex regulatory systems. Furthermore, the scaling of these communication pathways with size is a plausible mechanism for the regulation of whole-colony metabolic scaling. The continued development of a network theory approach to integrating behavior and metabolism will reveal insights into the evolution of collective animal behavior, ecological dynamics, and social cohesion.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Gut Bacterial Load Associates with Dramatic Declines in Anoxia Tolerance in Young Drosophila melanogaster Adults

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Anoxia tolerance is strongly correlated with tolerance to heat, desiccation, hyperosmotic shock, freezing, and other general stressors, suggesting that anoxia tolerance is broadly related to stress tolerance. Age affects the

Anoxia tolerance is strongly correlated with tolerance to heat, desiccation, hyperosmotic shock, freezing, and other general stressors, suggesting that anoxia tolerance is broadly related to stress tolerance. Age affects the capacity of many animals to survive anoxia, but the basis to this ontogenic variation is poorly understood. We exposed adult Drosophila, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12 days past eclosion, to six hours of anoxia and assessed survival 24-hours post-treatment. Survival of anoxia declined strongly with age (from 80% survival for one-day-old flies to 10% survival for 12 day-old-flies), a surprising result since adult fly senescence in Drosophila is usually observed much later. In anoxia, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels declined rapidly (< 30 min) to near-zero levels in both 1 and 12-day old adults; thus the higher anoxia-tolerance of young adults is not due to a better capacity to keep ATP elevated. Relatively few physiological parameters are reported to change over this age range in D. melanogaster, but gut bacterial content increases strongly. As a partial test for a causal link between bacterial load and anoxia tolerance, we replaced food daily, every third day, or every sixth day, and assayed survival of six hours of anoxia and bacterial load at 12 days of age. Anoxia tolerance for 12-day old flies was improved by more food changes and was strongly and negatively affected by bacterial load. These data suggest that increasing bacterial load may play an important role in the age-related decline of anoxia tolerance in Drosophila.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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Matters of Size: Behavioral, Morphological, and Physiological Performance Scaling Among Stingless Bees (Meliponini)

Description

Body size plays a pervasive role in determining physiological and behavioral performance across animals. It is generally thought that smaller animals are limited in performance measures compared to larger animals;

Body size plays a pervasive role in determining physiological and behavioral performance across animals. It is generally thought that smaller animals are limited in performance measures compared to larger animals; yet, the vast majority of animals on earth are small and evolutionary trends like miniaturization occur in every animal clade. Therefore, there must be some evolutionary advantages to being small and/or compensatory mechanisms that allow small animals to compete with larger species. In this dissertation I specifically explore the scaling of flight performance (flight metabolic rate, wing beat frequency, load-carrying capacity) and learning behaviors (visual differentiation visual Y-maze learning) across stingless bee species that vary by three orders of magnitude in body size. I also test whether eye morphology and calculated visual acuity match visual differentiation and learning abilities using honeybees and stingless bees. In order to determine what morphological and physiological factors contribute to scaling of these performance parameters I measure the scaling of head, thorax, and abdomen mass, wing size, brain size, and eye size. I find that small stingless bee species are not limited in visual learning compared to larger species, and even have some energetic advantages in flight. These insights are essential to understanding how small size evolved repeatedly in all animal clades and why it persists. Finally, I test flight performance across stingless bee species while varying temperature in accordance with thermal changes that are predicted with climate change. I find that thermal performance curves varied greatly among species, that smaller species conform closely to air temperature, and that larger bees may be better equipped to cope with rising temperatures due to more frequent exposure to high temperatures. This information may help us predict whether small or large species might fare better in future thermal climate conditions, and which body-size related traits might be expected to evolve.

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Date Created
  • 2018

Physiological and Genetic Mechanisms Underlying Variation in Anoxia Tolerance in Drosophila Melanogaster

Description

The ability to tolerate bouts of oxygen deprivation varies tremendously across the animal kingdom. Adult humans from different regions show large variation in tolerance to hypoxia; additionally, it is widely

The ability to tolerate bouts of oxygen deprivation varies tremendously across the animal kingdom. Adult humans from different regions show large variation in tolerance to hypoxia; additionally, it is widely known that neonatal mammals are much more tolerant to anoxia than their adult counterparts, including in humans. Drosophila melanogaster are very anoxia-tolerant relative to mammals, with adults able to survive 12 h of anoxia, and represent a well-suited model for studying anoxia tolerance. Drosophila live in rotting, fermenting media and a result are more likely to experience environmental hypoxia; therefore, they could be expected to be more tolerant of anoxia than adults. However, adults have the capacity to survive anoxic exposure times ~8 times longer than larvae. This dissertation focuses on understanding the mechanisms responsible for variation in survival from anoxic exposure in the genetic model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, focused in particular on effects of developmental stage (larval vs. adults) and within-population variation among individuals.

Vertebrate studies suggest that surviving anoxia requires the maintenance of ATP despite the loss of aerobic metabolism in a manner that prevents a disruption of ionic homeostasis. Instead, the abilities to maintain a hypometabolic state with low ATP and tolerate large disturbances in ionic status appear to contribute to the higher anoxia tolerance of adults. Furthermore, metabolomics experiments support this notion by showing that larvae had higher metabolic rates during the initial 30 min of anoxia and that protective metabolites were upregulated in adults but not larvae. Lastly, I investigated the genetic variation in anoxia tolerance using a genome wide association study (GWAS) to identify target genes associated with anoxia tolerance. Results from the GWAS also suggest mechanisms related to protection from ionic and oxidative stress, in addition to a protective role for immune function.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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A comparative study of dragonfly flight in variable oxygen atmospheres

Description

One hypothesis for the small size of insects relative to vertebrates, and the existence of giant fossil insects, is that atmospheric oxygen levels have constrained body sizes because oxygen delivery

One hypothesis for the small size of insects relative to vertebrates, and the existence of giant fossil insects, is that atmospheric oxygen levels have constrained body sizes because oxygen delivery would be unable to match the needs of metabolically active tissues in larger insects. This study tested whether oxygen delivery becomes more challenging for larger insects by measuring the oxygen-sensitivity of flight metabolic rates and behavior during hovering for 11 different species of dragonflies that range in mass by an order of magnitude. Animals were flown in 7 different oxygen concentrations ranging from 30% to 2.5% to assess the sensitivity of their behavior and flight metabolic rates to oxygen. I also assessed the oxygen-sensitivity of flight in low-density air (nitrogen replaced with helium), to increase the metabolic demands of hovering flight. Lowered atmosphere densities did induce higher metabolic rates. Flight behaviors but not flight metabolic rates were highly oxygen-sensitive. A significant interaction between oxygen and mass was found for total flight time, with larger dragonflies varying flight time more in response to atmospheric oxygen. This study provides some support for the hypothesis that larger insects are more challenged in oxygen delivery, as predicted by the oxygen limitation hypothesis for insect gigantism in the Paleozoic.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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The emergence and scaling of division of labor in insect societies

Description

Division of labor, whereby different group members perform different functions, is a fundamental attribute of sociality. It appears across social systems, from simple cooperative groups to complex eusocial colonies. A

Division of labor, whereby different group members perform different functions, is a fundamental attribute of sociality. It appears across social systems, from simple cooperative groups to complex eusocial colonies. A core challenge in sociobiology is to explain how patterns of collective organization are generated. Theoretical models propose that division of labor self-organizes, or emerges, from interactions among group members and the environment; division of labor is also predicted to scale positively with group size. I empirically investigated the emergence and scaling of division of labor in evolutionarily incipient groups of sweat bees and in eusocial colonies of harvester ants. To test whether division of labor is an emergent property of group living during early social evolution, I created de novo communal groups of the normally solitary sweat bee Lasioglossum (Ctenonomia) NDA-1. A division of labor repeatedly arose between nest excavation and guarding tasks; results were consistent with hypothesized effects of spatial organization and intrinsic behavioral variability. Moreover, an experimental increase in group size spontaneously promoted higher task specialization and division of labor. Next, I examined the influence of colony size on division of labor in larger, more integrated colonies of the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. Division of labor scaled positively with colony size in two contexts: during early colony ontogeny, as colonies grew from tens to hundreds of workers, and among same-aged colonies that varied naturally in size. However, manipulation of colony size did not elicit a short-term response, suggesting that the scaling of division of labor in P. californicus colonies is a product of functional integration and underlying developmental processes, rather than a purely emergent epiphenomenon. This research provides novel insights into the organization of work in insect societies, and raises broader questions about the role of size in sociobiology.

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Date Created
  • 2011