megachilerotundata pupa

Bio-inspiration from micro-fluidics in the insect tracheal system


Art Woods, University of Montana, organismal biologist
Shahriar Afkami, New Jersey Institute of Technology, computational and mathematical modeling
Kendra Greenlee, North Dakota State University, organismal biologist


The respiratory system of insects is evolved to deal with water in the tracheae. Water could enter the tracheae during submersion, but during embryonic development the tracheae is liquid-filled and transitions to air-filled. In addition, periodically during juvenile stages, the tracheal system is filled with liquid as the old tracheae are removed during the process of molting. Our long-term goals are to

  1. understand the surface properties of the tracheal system that make it amenable to liquid movement,
  2. identify the routes of liquid movement through the tracheal system, and
  3. determine the mechanism of liquid movement (i.e., absorption across or transport along tracheae). Using x-ray images of tracheae in vitro, we are able to model the speed of water movement through tracheal tubes.

In addition, x-ray images of developing embryos shed light on the routes of fluid movement during air-filling of the tracheae.

Our short term goals are to develop the model for fluid movement and prepare the first manuscript stemming from this project. We have data collected for a manuscript and would benefit from a three-day workshop to get the manuscript to a publication-ready state.


Please contact Kendra Greenlee for more information about this research exchange.