Functional compartmentalization in the hemocoel of insects

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Springer Nature

The insect circulatory system contains an open hemocoel, in which the mechanism of hemolymph flow control is ambiguous. As a continuous fluidic structure, this cavity should exhibit pressure changes that propagate quickly. Narrow-waisted insects create sustained pressure differences across segments, but their constricted waist provides an evident mechanism for compartmentalization. Insects with no obvious constrictions between segments may be capable of functionally compartmentalizing the body, which could explain complex hemolymph flows. Here, we test the hypothesis of functional compartmentalization by measuring pressures in a beetle and recording abdominal movements. We found that the pressure is indeed uniform within the abdomen and thorax, congruent with the predicted behavior of an open system. However, during some abdominal movements, pressures were on average 62% higher in the abdomen than in the thorax, suggesting that functional compartmentalization creates a gradient within the hemocoel. Synchrotron tomography and dissection show that the arthrodial membrane and thoracic muscles may contribute to this dynamic pressurization. Analysis of volume change suggests that the gut may play an important role in regulating pressure by translating between body segments. Overall, this study suggests that functional compartmentalization may provide an explanation for how fluid flows are managed in an open circulatory system.