You are on page 1of 5

Lecture No.

Circulatory system in insects-haemocoel and dorsal vessel-circulation of bloodcomposition of haemolymph-blood plasma-haemocytes and their functions
Blood vascular system of insects is known as circulatory system, in which the
blood flows freely within the body cavity. Body cavity of insect is known as
haemocoel and the blood is called haemolymph. Organs of blood circulation are
dorsal vessel (insect heart) and some accessory pulsatory organs. Insect possess open
circulatory system (blood bathes all the internal organs directly in the body cavity).
Insect blood or haemolymph is colourless and transparent liquid, but in larvae
of chironomid fly it is red pigmented.
Body cavity or haemocoel is divided into 3 sinuses (dorsal pericardial sinus,
middle perivisceral sinus and ventral perineural sinus) and 2 diaphragms. Dorsal
diaphragm separates pericardial sinus while, perineural sinus is divided by ventral
diaphragm from middle perivisceral sinus.
Dorsal pericardial sinus contains the dorsal blood vessel while the ventral
perineural sinus bears ventral nerve card. The middle perivisceral sinus includes the
Dorsal vessel
There are no true blood vessels in insects. The dorsal vessel is the main
circulatory organ in insects. The dorsal vessel comprises of two parts,

The anterior part or the aorta


The posterior dilated part or the heart.

It is the upper part of the dorsal vessel. It is a straight anterior tube opens
behind the brain, without any valves or ostia and terminates anteriorly into dorsal
It is the lower part of dorsal vessel. It is muscular and contractile, extending
from the hind region of the thorax to the terminal end of abdomen. Many number of
valvular openings present in the heart called ostia which allow the haemolymph to
enter (incurrent ostia) or exit (excurrent ostia). The pumping activity of the heart and

the movement of the haemolymph is aided by the nerves from the stomatogastric
system, ventral nerver cord and associated ganglia.
It is the contraction phase of the heart, which results from the contraction of
the muscles in the heart wall. The contraction starts posteriorly and spreads forward as
a wave.
It is the relaxation phase of the heart results from the relaxation of the muscles
in the heart.
After diastole, the heart rests in expanded condition. This phase is diastasis.
Accessory pulsatile organs
Besides heart, various accessory pulsatile organs also helpful for the
movement of haemolymph. They are found in head, antennae, thorax, legs and wings,
which drive blood into them.
Insect blood circulation
Insect blood or haemolymph circulation always takes place in posterioanterior direction. Dorsal vessel is a contractile structure and it is a sole circulatory
organ. Peristaltic wave originates at posterior end and runs to anterior end inducing
pumping of blood in similar direction.
Incurrent ostia open during diastole allow haemolymph inside the heart, while
remain closed during systole in order to prevent outward as well as backward
flow of the haemolymph.
Haemolymph is directed anteriorly by a wave of peristaltic contraction
(systole) and relaxation (diastole) of heart towards cephalic haemocoel along
the dorsal vessel.
From the head haemolymph flows backward direction to thorax and
abdominal haemocoel by undulatory movement of diaphragms. This helps
haemolymph supply to nervous system.
Due to undulatory movements of diaphragms, action of accessory pulsatile
structures and visceral and body movements, haemolymph circulates
throungout the body cavity and to other appendages like antennae, legs and

Haemolymph retruns to pericardial sinus through openings of dorsal

diaphragm and enters heart and circulation continues.
Haemolymph and its functions
The blood of the insect is called haemolymph, carried out the functions of
both blood and lymph. It is a watery fluid containing ions, molecules and cells. It is
often clear and colourless but may be variously pigmented (yellow or green) or rarely
red due to presence of haemoglobin in the immature stages of Chironomid (midge)
larva, notonectids (back swimmers) and horse bot fly. Haemolymph is not involved in
gas transporting function (respiration). It forms 5 to 40% of total body weight of an
insect. The pH is about 6-7, slightly acidic and the specific gravity ranges from 1.01
to 1.06. Haemolymph contains a fluid portion called plasma and cellular fractions
called haemocytes.
1. Plasma
Plasma is an aqueous solution of inorganic ions, lipids, sugars (mainly
trehalose), amino acids, proteins, organic acids and other compounds. The pH is
usually acidic (6-7). Density is 1.01 to 1.06. Water content is 84-92 per cent.
Inorganic constitutes are sodium, potassium, calcium, sulphur, magnesium, chloride,
phosphorous and carbonate. Entomophagous insects (predators and parasites) contain
more `Na' and phytophagous insects contain more `Mg' and `K'. Carbohydrate is
present in the form of trehalose sugar (insect blood sugar and it is disaccharide).
Major proteins are lipoproteins, glycoproteins and enzymes. Enzymes are lipase,
sucrase and amylase. Lipids are in form of fat particles or lipoproteins. Higher
concentration of amino acids leads to a condition called amino-acidemia which effects
the osmosis process. In high altitude insects glycerol is present which acts as a anti
freezing compound (lowers the freezing point of haemolymph). Nitrogenous waste is
present in the form of uric acid. Pigments are haemoglobin (major pigment),
kathemoglobin (derived from blood meals) and carotene and xanthophylls
(phytophagous insects).
2. Haemocytes
The blood cells or haemocytes suspended in the plasma. There are several
types of haemocytes and all are nucleated.
a. Prohaemocyte or Proleucocytes : Smallest of all cells with largest nucleus.
These divide and give rise to other haemocytes.

b. Plasmatocyte or Amaebocytes: Most abundant cells (>30%), round or

spindle or amoeba shaped with a single large nucleus at centre, exhibit
phagocytic behaviour.
c. Granular heamocyte or granulocytes: Round cells with large nucleus.
Involved in defense against intruding organisms.
d. Spherule cell: Spherical cells with cytoplasmic inclusions, obscure the
e. Cystocyte or Coagulocyte: Blood cells with single small nucleus. Helps in
blood coagulation and plasma precipitation.
f. Oenocytoids or Crystal cells: Large cells with small one or two ecentric
g. Adipohaemocytes: Round or avoid with distinct fat droplets.
h. Podocytes or Stellate cells: Large flattened cells with number of protoplasmic
i. Vermiform cells or nematocytes: Rare type, long thread like or worm like
cells with single nucleus.
Functions of haemolymph
1. Lubricant
Haemolymph keeps the internal cells moist and thus allowing movement of
internal organs.
2. Hydraulic medium
Hydrostatic pressure developed due to blood pumping is useful in the
following processes.
a) Ecdysis (moulting)
b) Wing expansion in adults
c) Ecolosion in diptera (adult emergence from the puparium using ptilinum)
d) Eversion of penis in male insects
e) Eversion of osmeteria in papilionid larvae
f) Eversion of mask in naiad of dragonfly
g) Maintenance of body shape in soft bodied caterpillars.
3. Transport and storage
Digested nutrients, hormones and gases (chironomid larva) were transported
with the help of haemolymph. It also removes the waste materials to the excretory
organs. Water and raw materials required for histogenesis is stored in haemolymph.

4. Protection
Provides protection against invading parasites, cell fragments etc by several
a. Phagocytosis: The haemocytes like plasmotocytes and granular haemocytes
actively ingest foreign particles viz., bacteria, protozoa, virus and cellular debris at the
time of cell division.
b. Encapsulation: Large no. of haemocytes becomes layered around an
invading entity such as parasite worm. Thus inhibits the activity parasite by
interfering with its feeding or oxygen supply.
c. Homeostasis, coagulation and plasma precipitation: The haemolymph
loss at wound site is inhibited or stopped by promotion of coagulation action and
plasma precipitation.
d. Wound healing: Promoting coagulation and forming protective sheath,
wound healing occur.
e. Non-cellular protective factors: In several insect haemolymph, nonspecific protective functions like lysozymes is present which kills many different
bacteria. Therefore, injection of plasma, which contains lysozyme from immune
insects into non-immune insects, may protect the non-immune insects.
5. Heat transfer
Haemolymph regulate the body heat (Thermoregulation).
6. Maintenance of osmotic pressure
Ions, amino acids and organic acids present in the haemolymph helps in
maintaining osmotic pressure required for normal physiological functions.
7. Reflex bleeding
Exudation of heamolymph through slit, pore etc. repels natural enemies. Eg.
8. Metabolic medium
Haemolymph serves as a medium for on going metabolic reactions (trahalose
is converted into glucose).