Beetles are champions at surviving in extremely dry environments. In part, this property is due to their ability to conserve water that would otherwise be destined for excretion using a system known as the cryptonephridial complex. This complex, one of the most powerful water-conserving systems in nature, recovers water from the rectum and recycles it back to the body. The system can desiccate faeces, efficiently minimizing water loss. It can even harvest water from the atmosphere in some species, thus providing a novel physiological mechanism for water uptake from the environment.
A new collaborative study by researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Copenhagen explains how this system functions in the red flour beetle (Tribolium).
Beyond helping to explain how beetles thrive in environments where few other animals can survive, the knowledge could eventually be used for more targeted and precise control of global insect pests.