Endothermic, flying insects are capable of some of the highest recorded metabolic rates. This high aerobic demand is made possible by the insect's tracheal system, which supplies the flight muscles with oxygen. Many studies focus on metabolic responses to acute changes in oxygen to test the limits of the insect flight metabolic system, with some flying insects exhibiting oxygen limitation in flight metabolism. These acute studies do not account for possible changes induced by developmental phenotypic plasticity in response to chronic changes in oxygen levels. The endothermic moth Manduca sexta is a model organism that is easy to raise and exhibits a high thorax temperature during flight (∼40°C). In this study, we examined the effects of developmental oxygen exposure during the larval, pupal and adult stages on the adult moth's aerobic performance. We measured flight critical oxygen partial pressure (Pcrit­), thorax temperature and thermoregulating metabolic rate to understand the extent of developmental plasticity as well as effects of developmental oxygen levels on endothermic capacity. We found that developing in hypoxia (10% oxygen) decreased thermoregulating thorax temperature when compared with moths raised in normoxia or hyperoxia (30% oxygen), when moths were warming up in atmospheres with 21–30% oxygen. In addition, moths raised in hypoxia had lower critical oxygen levels when flying. These results suggest that chronic developmental exposure to hypoxia affects the adult metabolic phenotype and potentially has implications for thermoregulatory and flight behavior.

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