Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Insects hold atomic clues about the type of habitats in which they live

Date:
February 17, 2011
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Scientists have discovered that insects contain atomic clues as to the habitats in which they are most able to survive. The research has important implications for predicting the effects of climate change on the insects, which make up three-quarters of the animal kingdom.

Researchers have discovered an 'atmospheric imprint' in insects, revealing where they are most likely to survive should climate change alter their ecosystem.
Credit: Dr. Tom Fayle

Scientists have discovered that insects contain atomic clues as to the habitats in which they are most able to survive. The research has important implications for predicting the effects of climate change on the insects, which make up three-quarters of the animal kingdom.

Applying a method previously only used to examine the possible effects of climate change on plants, scientists from the University of Cambridge can now determine the climatic tolerances of individual insects. Their research was published Feb. 16 in the scientific journal Biology Letters.

Because insects are at constant risk of desiccation, they have a waterproof exoskeleton which protects them from dehydration. Therefore, measuring hydration levels in an insect gives little if no indication of the type of habitat they live in (for example, whether it is humid or dry). Moreover, most insects live in the undergrowth, or in the soil; in tropical rainforests the insects live many hundreds of feet up in the canopy, which makes it very difficult to observe them directly. Using the atmospheric imprint, it will now be possible to decipher the habitat preferences of individual insects no matter where they live.

By taking advantage of a unique property of the oxygen isotopes in water; namely that the isotopes behave differently during evaporation and condensation, the researchers were able to determine how much water an insect loses when it 'breathes' through holes in its outer skeleton called spiracles, providing important insight into the type of atmosphere (for example, humid like the rain forest) it could survive.

Water (H20) is made up of two types of oxygen -- 18O and 16O. Because 16O is lighter, when water evaporates it leaves behind more 18O. Using cockroaches, the scientists measured the levels of the two different oxygens in the insects' circulatory fluid -- called haemolymph -- as well as in their outer skeleton. From this information they were able to determine how much water had evaporated and therefore identify the atmospheric conditions necessary for the insect to survive.

Insects living in a dry atmosphere have a higher concentration of 18O as a result of a greater water loss. Insects living in very humid conditions tend to lose less water and therefore have a nearly equal ratio of 16O to 18O. With this new method, researchers will be able to predict where species are most likely to survive (e.g. in Sahara-desert dry and rainforest humid), and will be able to pinpoint with great accuracy which species share the most similar niches.

"There is an urgent need for a better understanding of how global environmental change will affect threatened plants and animals," said Dr Farnon Ellwood, lead author of the paper. "If we can determine the habitat preferences of individual insects, we can use this information to predict how climate change will impact on a group representing three-quarters of the Earth's animal species."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. D. Farnon Ellwood, Roger G. W. Northfield, Monica Mejia-Chang, Howard Griffiths. On the vapour trail of an atmospheric imprint in insects. Biology Letters, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1171

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Insects hold atomic clues about the type of habitats in which they live." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216110544.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2011, February 17). Insects hold atomic clues about the type of habitats in which they live. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216110544.htm
University of Cambridge. "Insects hold atomic clues about the type of habitats in which they live." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216110544.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins