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Caddisfly life histories along permanence gradients in high-altitude wetlands in Colorado (U.S.A.)

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SUMMARY

1. Larvae of cased caddisflies (Limnephilidae and Phryganeidae) are among the most abundant and conspicuous invertebrates in northern wetlands. Although species replacements are often observed along permanence gradients, the underlying causal mechanisms are poorly understood. In this paper, we report on the distributional patterns of caddisflies in permanent and temporary high-altitude ponds, and how those patterns reflect differences in life history characteristics that affect desiccation tolerance (fundamental niches) versus constraints related to biotic interactions (realised niches).

2. Species (Hesperophylax occidentalis and Agrypnia deflata) that were encountered only in permanent ponds are restricted in distribution by life history (no ovarian diapause, aquatic oviposition, and/or inability to tolerate desiccation). Although the egg masses of H. occidentalis tolerate desiccation, the larvae leave the protective gelatinous matrix of the egg mass because adults oviposit in water.

3. Three species (Asynarchus nigriculus, Limnephilus externus and L. picturatus) have life history characteristics (rapid larval growth, ovarian diapause and terrestrial oviposition of desiccation-tolerant eggs) that should facilitate the use of both permanent and temporary habitats. However, A. nigriculus is rare or absent in most permanent ponds, and L. externus and L. picturatus are rare or absent in most temporary ponds. Experimental data from a previous study on the combined effects of salamander predation and interspecific interactions among caddisflies (e.g. intraguild predation) suggest that biotic interactions limit each species to a subset of potentially exploitable habitats.

4. Many wetland invertebrates exhibit species replacements along permanence gradients, but few studies have separated the relative importance of the effects of drying per se from the effects of biotic interactions. Our results emphasise the complementary roles of comparative data on life histories and experimental data on competition and predation for understanding invertebrate distributions along permanence gradients.
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Keywords: caddisfly; life history; niche; permanence gradients; wetlands

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Crested Butte, CO, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2003-02-01

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