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WHEN INSECTS SHED THEIR EXOSKELETONSIT’S “LIKE HAVING YOUR LUNGS RIPPED OUT”By Erik Stokstad 29 August 2014 ||  Science/AAAS | News Reporting on the article by Camp, Funk, and Buchwalter, “A Stressful Shortness of Breath” in Freshwater Science, Vol. 33, No. 3, September 2014.

When an insect gets too big for its exoskeleton, it sheds it. This process—known as molting—might sound matter-of-fact, but it’s not. Insects stop eating, many lie still, and they become more vulnerable to predators. Now, a study of mayfly larvae has revealed another difficulty: While molting, insects can’t breathe. Alarmingly, the respiratory impairment grows more severe with higher temperatures, suggesting that climate change and other stressors could make molting an even greater challenge.

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“It’s like having your lungs ripped out,” says Joseph Bernardo, an ecologist at Texas A&M University, College Station, who was not involved in the research. Although it was fairly common knowledge among entomologists that the tracheal linings come out—and likely block the trachea in the process—the impact on respiration hadn’t been measured.

IMAGE: The shed exoskeleton of a larval mayfly. The small filaments are tracheal linings. (A. A. CAMP ET AL., FRESHWATER SCIENCE, 33 (3) (2014))

commissioned work Acrylic on canvas / 2014)

Pretty on the skin, ugly from within