How Do Insects Hold Their Breath?

How Do Insects Hold Their Breath?

Despite the fact that flies are wingless, they have a very elaborate respiratory system that allows them to breathe. This system has been studied for years. Researchers have studied how it changes when a fly transforms into a different species. While it may not be long enough to allow for a full-blown breathing system, the process is extremely useful in research.

Flies have a tube called the trachea, and this tube leads to a fluid-filled tracheole. From there, oxygen diffuses across the wall of the tracheole and into the insect’s cells. While humans are likely to die within minutes of being deprived of oxygen, insects can survive for hours without any sign of death. Research at the Harrison lab at ASU is examining this phenomenon and may lead to a new treatment for stroke and premature births.

Water flies have a similar mechanism that keeps them afloat. Their hair covers a layer of air that reduces their effective density. The resulting thin air layer allows water flies to float to the surface of a swimming pool or remain submerged for up to five hours.

Similarly, flies do not respond to droplets falling from the sky. They do not respond to a threat before the droplets impact their bodies. Moreover, the fly’s superhydrophobic hair cover allows it to glide off the wing.