Environmental variation and the predator-specific responses of tropical stream insects: effects of temperature and predation on survival and development of Australian Chironomidae (Diptera)

McKie, Brendan G., and Pearson, Richard G. (2006) Environmental variation and the predator-specific responses of tropical stream insects: effects of temperature and predation on survival and development of Australian Chironomidae (Diptera). Oecologia, 149 (2). pp. 328-339.

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Abstract

The threat posed by predation varies among predator species and with environmental context, and prey species often adjust their responses accordingly. We investigated such effects within an insect assemblage from a tropical Australian stream. These systems are frequently subjected to catastrophic floods, often suggested to reduce the importance of predation in streams, and invertebrate faunas are characterised by relatively broad environmental tolerances. Impacts of the hunting predator Australopelopia prionoptera (Diptera: Chironomidae) and an undescribed ambush predator from the Polycentropodidae (Trichoptera) on survival and development of two species of tubicolous Chironomidae, Echinocladius martini (Orthocladiinae) and Polypedilum australotropicus (Chironominae), were assessed in laboratory microcosms. A further experiment investigated how impacts of Australopelopia varied over a broad range of temperatures, exceeding that experienced annually by the studied populations. Neither predator impacted survivorship for E. martini, but the presence of the polycentropodid caused E. martini to spend longer as larvae and reduced adult longevity, and adult females were smaller-sized and had smaller oocytes. In contrast, both predators reduced survivorship of P. australotropicus, but only Australopelopia affected its development, causing reductions in pupal duration and oocyte size. The observed non-lethal impacts of predation reflect the threat each predator is known to pose to each prey species in situ. Impacts of predation varied little with temperature, reflecting the broad thermal tolerances of all study species. The predator-specific responses of the prey species imply that predation is a significant selective force in tropical Australian streams, although fluctuation in intensity of predation associated with flooding may limit its importance for community structure and prey diversity at larger scales. Our results indicate a more limited scope for environmental modification of predator–prey relationships in faunas characterised by broad physiological tolerances.

Item ID: 4194
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-1939
Keywords: anti-predator mechanisms; developmental trade-off; kairomone; lotic; sublethal
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2009 00:59
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060204 Freshwater Ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960999 Land and Water Management of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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