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X-ray images help explain limits to insect body size

red to the extremities.

We were surprised to find that the effect is most pronounced in the orifices leading to the legs, where more and more of the space is taken up by tracheal tubes in larger species, said Alex Kaiser, biologist at Midwestern University.

They then examined the tracheal measurements of the four species to see if they could predict the largest size of currently living beetles. The head data predicted an unrealistically large, foot-long beetle. In contrast, the leg data predicted a beetle that nicely matches the size of the largest living beetle, Titaneus giganteus .

This study is a first step toward understanding what controls body size in insects. It's the legs that count in the beetles studied here, but what matters for the other hundreds of thousands of beetle species and millions of insect species overall is still an open question, said Jake Socha, Argonne biologist.


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Contact: Sylvia Carson
scarson@anl.gov
630-252-5510
DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
10-Aug-2007


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