Matthews Lab

Comparative Respiratory Physiology

and Biomechanics

Welcome to the (Phil) Matthews Lab! Our lab is part of the Comparative Physiology group in the Department of Zoology at UBC, located in the Biological Sciences building. We have a broad interest in insect respiratory and biomechanical adaptations. Our goal is to understand how insects have adapted their tracheal gas exchange systems to function in different environments, and this work has led us to consider some unusual biomechanical systems in insects. Specifically we are currently exploring how aquatic chaoborid midge larvae have evolved the ability to control their buoyancy, as well as looking at the energetics and mechanics of sucking out xylem sap under tension.


We use many experimental techniques to understand how both terrestrial and aquatic insects obtain sufficient O2 from their environment and how they regulate CO2 excretion and internal pH. This involves looking at the morphology of their gas exchange system, how the nervous system regulates gas exchange, and how this influences the acid-base balance of their haemolymph. Details of our current research projects, publications, and the people working in the lab, can be found on this website.


If you are interested in undertaking an MSc or PhD on insect respiratory physiology, or a related field, please go to the prospective students page. Happy browsing!

Lab News

January 2022 Evan McKenzie's research, in collaboration with Martin Tresguerres and Garfield Kwan at Scripps, on the hydrostatic organ of Chaoborus has been published in Current Biology! You can read the full paper here. A Dispatch article in the same issue putting these findings in context can be seen here


December 2021 Tormod Rowe's paper incorporating the first combined in vivo measurements of hemolymph PCO2 and PO2 in an insect breathing discontinuously has been accepted for publication in the Journal for Experimental Biology


July 2021 Elisabeth Bergman's paper "The cibarial pump of the xylem-feeding froghopper Philaenus spumarius produces negative pressures exceeding 1 MPa" has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B and featured in the New York Times' Trilobites section. Link here


February 2020 Congrats to Kephra Beckett and Anna Robertson, who were awarded the Journal of Experimental Biology's Outstanding Paper of 2019 for their paper "Studies on gas exchange in the meadow spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius: the metabolic cost of feeding on, and living in, xylem sap". Well done! Announcement here


November 2019 - Summer Scholar Student Auguste de Pennart had his paper "The bimodal gas exchange strategies of dragonfly nymphs across development" accepted for publication in the Journal of Insect Physiology


October 2019 - Daniel Lee had his paper "Quantifying the acid-base status of dragonflies across their transition from breathing water to breathing air" accepted by the Journal of Experimental Biology


Febuary 2019 Kephra Beckett's USRA work featured in the New York Times' 'Sciencetake' section: "Inside the Spittlebug's Bubble Home". Link here



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