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What are Spiracles?

Various species carry different body parts that help in breathing. One such is the Spiracles, the opening of the tracheal system located on the integument of the insect. 

These are basically breathing openings found on the surface of various insects, including sharks and stingrays. In fish, spiracles are composed of a pair that opens behind the eyes allowing drawing oxygenated water in without being gills to action. Once you understand the spiracle meaning, it becomes easy to study the breathing pattern of insects and animals.

In many cases of Apterygota and larval insects, there is a lack of valves in spiracles, therefore they have trachea that stays open, although they are covered with sieve-like plates.

Spiracles Definition

In some animal species, there is an opening on the surface of their skin, leading to the respiratory systems. Insects sometimes have it on the exoskeletons allowing air to enter the area called trachea. One can locate them laterally along the thorax, and in some insects it is found in the abdomen.

Small muscles operate one or two flap-like valves within each spiracle, relaxing to open it, and regulate the airflow.

One interesting point is the timing and duration of spiracle closures affecting respiratory rates of the organism. In many cases, these are surrounded by the hair helping to minimize the bulk air movement. This results in the minimizing of the water loss.

As mentioned above, different spices have different pairs of spiracles, like an adult can have at least 10. Similarly, the number of spiracles in cockroaches is 10, out of these 2 pairs are found in the thoracic portion and 8 are found in the abdominal portion.

These spiracles in many insects are protected by hairs and valves with flaps, and are surrounded by spines, folds and ridges. Further, spiracles are controlled by muscles which open up when in need of oxygen. During the resting period, these spiracles rest. One of the interesting things about spiracles is they can be adjusted in insects that can survive in dry climates.

The closing mechanism of spiracle, or valve carries enough protein required by the insect and is known as Resilin, allowing contraction and expansion.

Some Examples of Spiracles

From grasshopper spiracles to sharks, spiracles in insects and fish are found in different forms. There are different types of spiracles in insects you will come across. Southern stingrays, also known as sand-dwelling sea animals use spiracles to breath while lying on the ocean bottom. Skates and Cartilaginous fish carry flat body and wing-like pectoral fins having attached to their head.

Angel sharks, on the other hand, carry a flat body helping to bury themselves in the sand breath using spiracles. They lie beneath the sand, to wait and attack fish, crustaceans and other fish. Angel sharks absorb oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide, and don’t have to swim like other sharks.

The spiracle leads to the trachea, which is also called the air tube.

Tracheal System in Insects

Insects don't carry any respiratory system. Instead they carry a tracheal system delivering oxygen throughout their bodies, and removes carbon dioxide during the respiration. As the air flows from spiracle to tracheal tube, it leads to the tracheoles, which are special cells used for the exchange of gas. Grasshopper spiracles are quite similar to the same mentioned above. However, they need more pumping action, and help them when they are active or undergoing stress due to heat.

Insects in large size, open and close separate spiracles using abdominal muscles. This helps them to move air throughout their bodies. One of the reasons behind these insects aren’t evolving is because of the nature of these tubes.

Spiracles in Cockroaches

When you study the anatomy of cockroaches, there are 10 spiracles in cockroaches. These different numbers of spiracles in cockroaches are located in different areas. Some are found on thorax and parts of the legs. Rests are found in abdominal areas. The largest spiracle found in cockroaches is the first thoracic spiracle.

Types of Spiracles

There are different types of spiracles in insects and other animals. To identify them, you need to first know the spiracles definition.

1. Insects With Spiracles

There are different types of insects like cockroaches and grasshoppers which carry spiracles in different forms. Insects having spiracles allow air to move their tracheal system. Since insects don't carry lungs, they use the tracheal system for breathing purposes. Moreover, insect open and close spiracles with the use of muscle contraction. During this process, oxygen molecules travel through the insect's tracheal system.

2. Animal With Spiracles

Whales and sharks are some of the animals carrying spiracles for breathing purposes. Whales use blow holes to breathe in air and breathe out carbon dioxide.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are Various Breathing Organs?

Ans. Insects and other large animals carry different breathing structures which are located in different organs. Hence they vary accordingly. For instance, a spiracle in a grasshopper located in the first and third segments of the thorax on each side. They carry valves controlled by muscles enabling the grasshopper to open and close them. Hairs filter out dust as the air enters these spiracles. Animals like cows, birds, elephants, etc carry lungs as the primary respiratory organ. Earthworms breathe through skin.

2. What are Spiracles?

Ans. Spiracles are basically openings or tiny pores located in different parts of some animals. Insects’ bodies are covered with holes called spiracles. Once the oxygen enters these holes, it reaches the trachea helping to circulate throughout the body. While exhaling, carbon dioxide is carried by trachea and expelled through spiracles.

Insects like cockroaches breathe through spiracles located in different areas of their tiny body.

3. Do White Sharks Carry Spiracles?

Ans. Yes, white sharks carry spiracles located behind their eyes allowing it to pull in the water while buried under the sand. White sharks need to keep swimming, in order to gain oxygen, or else they die.