Experimental studies of exploitative competition in a grazing stream insect

  • Hart D
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Field and laboratory experiments were conducted to determine whether intraspecific competition for food occurs during the larval stage of the periphyton-grazing caddisfly Glossosoma nigrior (Trichoptera : Glossosomatidae). Larvae were placed in field enclosures at densities less than, equal to, or greater than their natural densities. Most of these individuals began to pupate after ~ 3 weeks, whereupon the mass of each individual was determined. Final mass declined significantly as larval densities increased, whereas neither developmental rate nor mortality/ emigration rate was significantly affected by density manipulations. A supplemental experiment comparing the final mass of individuals grown at reduced densities in a laboratory stream with individuals from a natural stream bottom confirmed the results of the more extensive field experiment: reductions in density resulted in significant increases in final mass. Periphyton availability in field enclosures declined according to a negative exponential function as larval densities increased. Over the ~ 25-fold range of larval densities used in these experiments, the final mass of individuals increased linearly with periphyton standing crops. This result suggests that Glossosoma larvae may compete for food even at densities below those employed in this study. Path anaylsis was used to explore the importance of indirect (i.e., exploitative) and direct (i.e., interference) mechanisms for the observed competitive effects. The analysis indicates that a model based solely on exploitation explains nearly as much of the variance in mass as a model incorporating both interference and exploitation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Algal-grazer interactions
  • Competition
  • Food depletion
  • Food limitation
  • Streams

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  • D. D. Hart

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