Stealth Moth

April 03, 2005


Referred by: Claudio De Felice
Summary authors & editors: Claudio De Felice

The photo above showing a stealth moth was taken on a summer's day in the contryside near Siena, Italy. Being confronted by this critter up close and personal could cause you to catch your breath. But is it the reverse true? Insects don't have lungs. Instead they have a complex network of airways (tracheae) inside their bodies which carry oxygen to their organs and are capable of delivering oxygen about 200,000 times as fast as a mammals’ blood vessels do, and they whisk away carbon dioxide about 10,000 times as fast. These airways open up at air holes called spiracles along the sides of the insect's body. Interestingly, many ants, grasshoppers, and moths on occasion shut their spiracles for hours at a time. The reasons for this discontinuous gas exchange cycle remains unclear, but recently it has been proposed that insects may breathe discontinuously to avoid oxygen toxicity.

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