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Crustacea in phytotelmata: a global overview

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Phytotelmata, or plant-held water bodies, occur all over the world and include bromeliads, pitcher plants and tree holes. Largely ignored, these habitats can house surprisingly diverse aquatic invertebrate communities. To complement existing overviews of insect-dominated phytotelm inquilines, we assembled information on aquatic Crustacea in phytotelmata worldwide with records of over 100 species of freshwater crustaceans, illustrating the relatively common presence of crustaceans in these habitats. The records are patchily distributed and large geographic gaps remain, indicating the incompleteness of our knowledge. Copepoda (68 species) and Decapoda (16 species) are the dominant taxa in the list. Ostracoda (14 species) are the most typical inhabitants and the only ones that are observed using dispersal vectors (amphibians) on a local scale. Anomopoda (10 species) are the smallest group represented. The total richness in a metacommunity of phytotelmata is often low, with five species in bromeliads in a Honduran cloud forest and eight species in bromeliads in central Mexico being the highest richness recorded. Aspects of ecology and morphology indicate how there is a remarkable morphological similarity crustacean phytotelmata with several groups found in interstitial waters and as stygobionts. A substantial part of the recorded species, in particular Copepoda, normally live in the thin water film covering vegetation and soils, and probably occur in phytotelmata as occasional encounters.

Affiliations: 1: 1Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen (KBIN), Vautierstraat 29, 1000 Brussels, Belgium; 2: 3Laboratory of Epyphytes, Instituto Politécnico Nacional CIIDIR unidad Oaxaca, Av. Hornos No. 1003, Col. Noche Buena. C.P. 71230. Sta. Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, Mexico


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