How Insects Breathe

UntitledFor my first post, I would like to say something about insects. There are an estimated 10 million species of insects on Earth, and their success may be attributed to their simple, yet efficient, body structure. Their segmented exoskeletons, a topic we will discuss at a later date, provides armor that protects their bodies from trauma that would otherwise harm them. They have complex social structures and are fascinating creatures to watch.

Insects do not have lungs, but like other organisms within the Animalia kingdom, they require oxygen to carry on life processes.

Insects breathe through tiny pores on the sides of their abdomens. These pores, known as spiracles, are found on each segment of the abdomen and open and close in response to the concentration of oxygen within the insect’s tissues. They also close to prevent water loss within the insect. Just like humans, when an insect respires there is an exchange of gases, (O2 for CO2) and a loss of water.  When air passes through the spiracle, it will then travel through a trachea. These tracheae connect in a pipe-like network of air tubes  that extends the length of the insects body. They terminate in close association with an insect cell where the gas exchange will then take place between the membrane of the tracheoles and the cell membrane through the process of diffusion. This system of respiration is considered the simplest and most efficient respiratory system in animals. Besides the spiracles found on the abdomen, most insects also have three pairs of spiracles at the base of their legs.

Insects belong to the phylum Arthropoda. Most terrestrial arthropods (spiders,  ticks, centipedes) have this system of respiration. Aquatic arthropods, such as lobsters and crabs, breathe by a specialized internal gill system.

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