Extracardiac Pulsations

First described in 1971, extracardiac pulsations of insects are the simultaneous contractions of intersegmental muscles, usually of the abdomen of insects, that cause a sharp increase in the pressure in the insect body. The amount of movement accompanying each pulse is too small to be seen, but it can be readily measured as a slight shortening or telescoping of the abdomen as measured from its tip. The extracardiac pulses should not be confused with larger overt movements of the abdomen, especially in bees and bumble bees, that accompany ventilation during times or high activity or exertion such as flight.

Either the extracardiac pulsations occur in coordination with openings of certain of the spiracles, and therefore can play a role in ventilation, or they occur when all the spiracles are tightly closed, hence affecting hemolymph movement. The extracardiac pulsations become suppressed only in quiescent stages of insect development, such as during diapause, but they can be evoked immediately upon disturbance or stimulation.

The extracardiac pulsations are driven by a part of the nervous system for which Karel Slama coined the name "coelopulse nervous system." The pressures induced by extracardiac pulsations are 100 to 500 times greater than pressures caused by contractions of the dorsal vessel and are transmitted by the hemolymph throughout the entire body of the insect, influencing hemolymph movement at some distance from the dorsal vessel and APO structures.

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