Adaptations of Carabid Beetles to Dry Habitats in East Africa
Zachariassen, Karl Erik
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The rates of water loss and humidity preference of carabids from dry tropical habitats have been studied and compared with corresponding data from temperate carabids and tropical tenebrionids. Within each group of beetles the rate of relative water loss decreases with increasing body size. Carabids from dry tropical areas have rates of water loss which are lower than those of temperate species, but considerably higher than the values for tenebrionids from dry tropical habitats. Small temperate carabids can stay in dry air for only a few hours, whereas large tropical tenebrionids may survive for weeks without becoming critically dehydrated. Given the choice between a dry and a humid atmosphere, well hydrated beetles of all groups will initially choose the dry atmosphere. Most temperate carabids will switch to humid atmosphere after a few hours and tropical carabids after 1–3 days, whereas tropical tenebrionids may remain in dry air for almost 3 weeks. The temperate carabids are very sensitive to dehydration and will shift to a humid atmosphere when dehydrated by only 2–5%. Tropical carabids and tenebrionids will shift first when they are dehydrated by 7–20% of their body weight in a hydrated state, implying that these beetles are considerably less sensitive to water loss than temperate carabids.