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Life history traits of the free-living nematode, Plectus acuminatus Bastian, 1865, and responses to cadmium exposure

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Free-living nematodes are ubiquitous and play an essential role in ecosystems. However, little is known about their standard life history traits (LHTs), which limits their inclusion in estimations of energy flows and carrying capacities of ecosystems, as well as in modelling population-level responses to toxicants. Thus, we used the hanging-drop method to measure LHTs of Plectus acuminatus with and without exposure to cadmium (2 mg l−1). In controls, the mean lifespan was 68 days and the maximum 114 days. Individuals laid eggs on average 19 days after hatching, while production of offspring peaked at 37 days. Plectus acuminatus individuals were very fertile, producing on average 848 juveniles. Population growth rate of 0.19 was estimated for the control cohort leading to an average population doubling time of 3.65 days. Exposure to cadmium reduced mean lifespan by 62% and affected reproduction as only 22% of individuals produced offspring, leading to a total fertility rate 85% lower than in controls.

Affiliations: 1: 1University of Bielefeld, Animal Ecology, Konsequenz 45, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany ; 2: 2Federal Institute of Hydrology, Am Mainzer Tor 1, 56068 Koblenz, Germany

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