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Susan Dorfman's picture

Breathing under water

I thought that the article whose web address in listed under this synopsis from MIT might be of interest after our study of the effect of temperature on heart rate in mammals (Will for example).

The History Channel had a show about underwater espionage that discussed examples from as far back as Greek and Roman times. The technology used by the ancients was fascinating and included re-breathers, divices used by modern navies to avoid the tell tale sign of bubbles. At any rate, I thought this insect model was fascinating.

Hundreds of insect species spend much of their time underwater, where food may be more plentiful. MIT mathematicians have now figured out exactly how those insects breathe underwater. By virtue of their rough, water-repellent coat, when submerged these insects trap a thin layer of air on their bodies.
These bubbles not only serve as a finite oxygen store, but also allow the
insects to absorb oxygen from the surrounding water. ³Some insects have adapted to life underwater by using this bubble as an external lung,² said John Bush, associate professor of applied mathematics and a co-author of a paper on the work in the Aug. 10 issue of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. Thanks to those air bubbles, insects can stay below the surface indefinitely and dive as deep as about 30 meters. This phenomenon was first observed many years ago, but the MIT researchers are the first to calculate the maximum dive depths and describe how the bubbles stay intact as insects dive deeper
underwater, where pressure threatens to burst them. The research was funded by the NSF.


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