Hold Your Breath


Carabid Beetles:
Some Species Are Adapted to Winter Flooding

Winter flooding is common in many of the temperate areas of North America and Europe. What happens to overwintering insects when it floods? Adis and Junk* reviewed the ability of beetles to survive submersion. Staphylinids, common in areas with winter flooding can withstand 30 days under water at low temperature. The carabid, Bembidion dentellum, can survive submerged under water for over 40 days at low temperatures (4 C). At 17 C, the beetles will emerge after only 2 days. Why does temperature have an effect? At low temperature the insects remain in diapause, a state of low respiration (oxygen requirement). At higher temperatures, the insects may break diapause, increase respiration and be unable to withstand extended submersion. It is possible that many insects overwintering in flooded soils may diapause with a very low respiration rate. This allows these insects to survive anaerobic conditions that may persist for weeks in flood prone areas. Flooding may exclude other species that are not adapted. Thus, winter flooding may be a factor that impacts species diversity and distribution. Global Climate Change may lead to more and more prolonged flooding in some areas. This is one way that climate change may affect species composition.

*JOACHIM ADIS and WOLFGANG J. JUNK. 2002. Terrestrial invertebrates inhabiting lowland river floodplains of Central Amazonia and Central Europe: a review. Freshwater Biology 47:711–731.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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