Water vapor absorption allows for volume expansion during molting in Armadillidiumvulgare and Porcelliodilatatus (Crustacea, Isopoda, Oniscidea).

Research paper by John-David JD Nako, Nicole S NS Lee, Jonathan C JC Wright

Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: ZooKeys


Arthropods require periodic molting in order to grow which presents a number of challenges to terrestrial taxa. Following ecdysis, the pliant new cuticle is susceptible to buckling under gravity and requires elevated hydrostatic pressure for support. Terrestrial species also require a mechanism of volume expansion and stretching of the integument prior to sclerotization, a need that is readily met in aquatic arthropods by drinking. Options for land arthropods include drinking of dew, swallowing of air, or using muscular contractions to inflate air sacs in tracheate taxa. In this study we tested the hypothesis that crinochete terrestrial isopods (Isopoda: Oniscidea: Crinocheta) exploit their capacity for active water vapor absorption (WVA) to increase volume during molting. Two crinochete species, and , were studied and compared with the non-absorbing species (Oniscidea: Ligiamorpha). Pre-molting animals were identified by sternal CaCO deposits and exposed to 100% or 97% relative humidity (RH). Mass-changes were monitored by daily weighing and the timing of the posterior and anterior ecdyses was used to categorize time (days premolt and days post-molt) over the molt cycle. In each treatment RH, and showed a progressive mass increase from 5 days premolt until the posterior or anterior ecdysis, followed abruptly by period of mass-loss lasting 3-4 days post-molt. The fact that the initial mass-gain is seen in 97 % RH, a humidity below the water activity of the hemolymph, confirms the role of WVA. Similarly, since the post-molt mass-loss is seen in 100 % RH, this must be due to active expulsion of water, possibly via maxillary urine. Concurrent changes in hemolymph osmolality were monitored in a separate batch of and show sustained osmolality during premolt and an abrupt decrease between the anterior and posterior ecdysis. These patterns indicate a mobilization of sequestered electrolytes during premolt, and a loss of electrolytes during the post-molt mass-loss, amounting to approximately 8.6 % of total hemolymph solutes. WVA, in conjunction with pulses of elevated hemolymph pressure, provides an efficient mechanism of pre-molt volume expansion prior to and during the biphasic molt in these species. Premolt exposed to same treatments failed to molt successfully and no premolt animals survived to day 3 (72 h) even in 100 % RH. The apparent dependence of this species on liquid water for successful molting could explain its obligatory association with riparian fringe habitats.