Frontal bodies: Novel structures involved in water vapour absorption by the desert burrowing cockroach, Arenivaga investigata
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Above 83% relative humidity, nymphs and adult females of the desert cockroach can condense water vapour on to a fluid layer covering protruded hypopharyngeal bladders. This fluid is produced by a pair of spheroidal bodies situated beneath the frons. Each such frontal body is connected by to the corresponding bladder by a groove in the epipharynx. During absorption, contraction of muscles connecting the frontal bodies to the frons causes them to move dorsally from the mandibles. Oscillation frequency increases with relative humidity or the application of nanoliter quantities of water to the bladders. Frontal bodies appear to be derived from invaginations of the integument, and consist of a mass of tough fibres containing protein and chitin. Fibres embed in a permeable plate which gives rise to the epipharyngeal groove. Tonofibrillae connect the fibres to elongate epidermal cells which are composed primarily of microtubules. The myoepidermal junction is characterized by fascia adherens. Frontal bodies resist tensile forces, but undergo changes in shape as they oscillate. Accompanying changes in hydrostatic pressure may move extracellular fluid across the plate and into the epipharyngeal groove. Possible roles of the fluid in the absorption process are discussed.
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