Resting insects are extremely tolerant of hypoxia. However, oxygen requirements increase dramatically during flight. Does the critical atmospheric P (O)(2) (P(c)) increase strongly during flight, or does increased tracheal conductance allow even flying insects to possess large safety margins for oxygen delivery? We tested the effect of P(O)(2) on resting and flying CO(2) emission, as well as on flight behavior and vertical force production in flying locusts, Schistocerca americana. The P(c) for CO(2) emission of resting animals was less than 1 kPa, similar to prior studies. The P(c) for flight bout duration was between 10 and 21 kPa, the P(c) for vertical force production was between 3 and 5 kPa, and the P(c) for CO(2) emission was between 10 and 21 kPa. Our study suggests that the P(c) for steady-state oxygen consumption is between 10 and 21 kPa (much higher than for resting animals), and that tracheal oxygen stores allowed brief flights in 5 and 10 kPa P(O)(2) atmospheres to occur. Thus, P(c) values strongly increased during flight, consistent with the hypothesis that the excess oxygen delivery capacity observed in resting insects is substantially reduced during flight.
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