Scanning and transmission electron microscopic study of the tracheal air sac system in a grasshopper Chrotogonus senegalensis (Kraus)—Orthoptera: Acrididae: Pyrogomorphinae


  • J. N. Maina

    1. Department of Veterinary Anatomy, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Anatomy, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
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The morphology of the trachea-air sac system in a species of grasshopper Chrotogonus senegalensis has been studied by using scanning and transmission electron microscopes. Capacious air sacs were formed as dilatations along the primary tracheal trunks. Narrower secondary trachea arose either directly from the primary trachea that bypassed the air sacs or from the air sacs themselves. At or close to the organ or tissue supplied with air, the secondary trachea gave rise to the notably smaller tertiary trachea that penetrated the tissue, giving rise terminally to the extremely small tracheoles that indent some cells. The trachea and the air sacs were basically made up of an inner cuticular lining, helical taenidial rings, and an overlying epithelial cell cover. The air sacs may be important in efficient ventilation of the respiratory system. The supply of air directly to the tissue cells was viewed as an exemplary efficient design when compared to that prevailing in the nontracheate air-breathing animals, where the vascular system is interposed between the respiratory organ and the target tissue cells. A similarity in the general morphological design of the insect and avian respiratory systems has been observed, mainly in respect to the presence of the air sacs and that of the respiratory shunts. This, together with the reported functional features like the unidirectional mode of ventilation, has been interpreted as a classic case of structural and functional convergent evolution leading to the evolution of similar and comparably efficient respiratory systems capable of providing the large amount of oxygen demanded by flight.