Respiratory gas exchange in the desert flea Xenopsylla ramesis (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae): Response to temperature and blood-feeding

L. J. Fielden, B. R. Krasnov, I. S. Khokhlova, M. S. Arakelyan

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27 Scopus citations


Xenopsylla ramesis is a flea species parasitizing gerbilline rodents in the deserts of the Middle East. This study was undertaken to determine metabolic requirements of the different developmental stages of the flea-life cycle as well as to investigate the metabolic response to temperature and starvation after blood feeding. A high resolution respirometry system was used to measure CO2 emission of fleas ranging in size from 0.166±0.006 mg (larvae) to 0.263±0.009 mg (adults). The free-living stages (larvae and adults) had significantly higher metabolic rates than the cocooned stages (pupae). CO2 emission rates of the larvae exceeded that of the adults by 2.6-fold and the pupae by 7.3 times. In the adults, both temperature and blood feeding significantly affected starvation-level metabolism. Metabolism was temperature dependent with an average Q10 of 2.57 for females and 2.55 for males over the temperature range of 10-30°C. No consistent decline in thermal sensitivity at higher ambient temperatures was evident. Fleas that had a blood meal prior to starvation had significantly higher metabolic rates (0. 86±0. 008×10-3 ml mg-1 h-1) than fleas, which were newly emerged unfed adults (0.56±0.1×10-3 ml mg-1 h-1). Water content also differed between fed (range approx. 67-69% body mass) and newly emerged adults (range approx. 73-75% of body mass). Feeding may stimulate some as yet undetermined physiological process that causes differential metabolic response in starving, fed and unfed fleas. Characteristics of gas exchange in desert-dwelling fleas are reflective of the off-host life style in the protected microenvironment of the host nest or burrow, rather than as a response to any type of environmental extreme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-565
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Desert
  • Flea
  • Gas exchange
  • Metabolic rate
  • Post-absorptive
  • Q
  • Respiration
  • Temperature
  • Xenopsylla ramesis


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