1. To understand how habitat heterogeneity affects organisms, the present authors measured the response of chironomid life-histories to single patch types in a controlled laboratory experiment. The objective was to determine whether the size and type of leaf particles in the substratum affect development rate and survival of larvae, and the fecundity of the resulting adults. 2. Chironomus riparius larvae were raised in sand supplemented with dogwood, Cornus florida, (a rapid decomposer) or American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, (a refractory decomposer) leaves fully crossed in a factorial design with four leaf particle sizes (0.2, 0.5, 1 and 5 cm2), or in sand only. 3. Development time was shorter in dogwood habitats than sycamore habitats, and shorter in sycamore habitats than in sand habitats. Survival was higher and larval head capsule lengths of instars III and IV were larger in dogwood than in sycamore or sand habitats. Development time was longer and head capsule lengths of instars III and IV were smaller in habitats with 5-cm2 leaf particles than in 0.2-, 0.5- and 1-cm2 particle size treatments. Female thorax length (a measure of fecundity) did not differ among treatments. 4. The present authors conclude that, for C. riparius confined to a single patch type, fitness is significantly enhanced when the patch contains small particles of dogwood (labile) leaves.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Aquatic Science