The larval alimentary canal of the Antarctic insect, Belgica antarctica

James B. Nardi, Lou Ann Miller, Charles Mark Bee, Richard E. Lee, David L. Denlinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On the Antarctica continent the wingless midge, Belgica antarctica (Diptera, Chironomidae) occurs further south than any other insect. The digestive tract of the larval stage of Belgica that inhabits this extreme environment and feeds in detritus of penguin rookeries has been described for the first time. Ingested food passes through a foregut lumen and into a stomodeal valve representing an intussusception of the foregut into the midgut. A sharp discontinuity in microvillar length occurs at an interface separating relatively long microvilli of the stomodeal midgut region, the site where peritrophic membrane originates, from the midgut epithelium lying posterior to this stomodeal region. Although shapes of cells along the length of this non-stomodeal midgut epithelium are similar, the lengths of their microvilli increase over two orders of magnitude from anterior midgut to posterior midgut. Infoldings of the basal membranes also account for a greatly expanded interface between midgut cells and the hemocoel. The epithelial cells of the hindgut seem to be specialized for exchange of water with their environment, with the anterior two-thirds of the hindgut showing highly convoluted luminal membranes and the posterior third having a highly convoluted basal surface. The lumen of the middle third of the hindgut has a dense population of resident bacteria. Regenerative cells are scattered throughout the larval midgut epithelium. These presumably represent stem cells for the adult midgut, while a ring of cells, marked by a discontinuity in nuclear size at the midgut-hindgut interface, presumably represents stem cells for the adult hindgut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-389
Number of pages13
JournalArthropod Structure and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Alimentary canal
  • Antarctica
  • Microvilli
  • Midge
  • Regenerative cells
  • Stomodeal valve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Insect Science


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