Metabolic rate scaling, ventilation patterns and respiratory water loss in red wood ants: activity drives ventilation changes, metabolic rate drives water loss [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Craig D. Perl and Jeremy E. Niven

Metabolic rate and its relationship with body size is a fundamental determinant of many life history traits and potentially of organismal fitness. Alongside various environmental and physiological factors, the metabolic rate of insects is linked to distinct ventilation patterns. Despite significant attention, however, the precise role of these ventilation patterns remains uncertain. Here, we determined the allometric scaling of metabolic rate and respiratory water loss in the red wood ant, as well as assessing the effect of movement upon metabolic rate and ventilation pattern. Metabolic rate and respiratory water loss are both negatively allometric. We observed both continuous and cyclic ventilation associated with relatively higher and lower metabolic rates, respectively. In wood ants, however, movement not metabolic rate is the primary determinant of which ventilation pattern is performed. Conversely, metabolic rate not ventilation pattern is the primary determinant of respiratory water loss. Our statistical models produced a range of relatively shallow intraspecific scaling exponents between 0.40 and 0.59, emphasising the dependency upon model structure. Previous investigations have revealed substantial variation in morphological allometry among wood ant workers from different nests within a population. Metabolic rate scaling does not exhibit the same variability, suggesting that these two forms of scaling respond to environmental factors in different ways.

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