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Food and Feeding Strategies of Water Mites of the Genus Hygrobates and the Impact of Their Predation On the Larval Population of the Chironomid Cladotanytarsus Mancus (Walker) in Lake Maarsseveen

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

The role of several aquatic animals, as food for the water mites Hygrobates nigromaculatus and H. trigonicus, was examined. Both water mite species are able to enter the sediments and prey on different larval stages of chironomids. H. nigromaculatus fed on both cladocerans and chironomids, while H. trigonicus preyed only upon chironomid larvae. H. trigonicus burrowed in the sediment independent of the presence of prey. In H. nigromaculatus on the contrary, the burrowing activity entirely disappeared in vials with a high number of Daphnia. Prey vulnerability is significantly increased in experiments without sediment. In a temperature range from 5 to 20°C, prey consumption rates increased about five times. The density of the chironomid Cladotanytarsus mancus declined by about 50% (27,000 to 13,000 per m2) in winter. Hygrobates (about 1000 per m2) was found to be the most important predator, despite the fact that Cladotanytarsus larvae inhabit tubes constructed of sand grains, which inhibits predation. Due to their small size, benthivorous fish will not feed on these larvae. Virtually, no other predators of these chironomids were present. The numerical decline of the chironomid closely matched the population food requirements of the water mite Hygrobates between November and May. It is concluded that the mite is almost entirely responsible for this decline. Cladotanytarsus is an indispensable food source for the mite during winter and spring, and is a source of energy when the eggs of the new generation are formed.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Aquatic Ecology, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 320, 1098 SM Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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