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Morphological Differences Among Eyeless Amphipods in the Genus Stygobromus Dwelling in Different Subterranean Habitats

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Abstract The amphipod genus Stygobromus occurs in a variety of subterranean habitats in North America, including caves, phreatic (groundwater) lakes, and superficial subterranean habitats (seeps and epikarst). The habitats share the absence of light but differ in other features, such as pore size of the habitat, available food, and degree of seasonality. Measurements of body size, antennal size, and antennal segment number of type specimens were compared for 56 species occurring in the eastern United States. Except for differences in body size, differences among species in the four different habitats were not significant. Body size was related to relative pore size of the habitat, e.g., epikarst, with the smallest spaces, had the smallest species. However, in all habitats, there was one very large species (> 15mm); these enigmatic species apparently occupy a distinct ecological niche, perhaps being more predatory. Differences in relative antennal size showed no significant differences among habitats, and differences in number of antennal segments were marginally significant (P  =  0.06) among habitat types and not in the predicted pattern. Differences among habitats in seasonality and available food seemed to be a minor part of the selective environment; absence of light seemed to be a major part of the selective environment.

Affiliations: 1: American University, Department of Environmental Science, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20016, U.S.A; 2: Old Dominion University, Department of Biological Sciences, Norfolk, Virginia 23508, U.S.A; 3: Department of Statistics, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, U.S.A; 4: Karst Research Institute ZRC-SAZU, Titov trg 2, Postojna SI-6230, Slovenia


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