The influence of potential stressors on oviposition site selection and subsequent growth, survival and emergence of the non-biting midge (Chironomus tepperi)

Robin Hale, Valentina Colombo, Molly Hoak, Vin Pettigrove, Stephen E. Swearer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Theory predicts that animals should prefer habitats where their fitness is maximized but some mistakenly select habitats where their fitness is compromised, that is, ecological traps. Understanding why this happens requires knowledge of the habitat selection cues animals use, the habitats they prefer and why, and the fitness costs of habitat selection decisions. We conducted experiments with a freshwater insect, the non-biting midge Chironomus tepperi to ask: (a) whether females respond to potential oviposition cues, (b) to explore whether oviposition is adaptive in relation to metal pollution and conductivity, and (c) whether individuals raised in poor quality sites are more likely to breed in similarly poor locations. We found the following: (a) females responded to some cues, especially conductivity and conspecifics, (b) females preferred sites with higher concentrations of bioavailable metals but suffered no consequences to egg/larval survival, (c) females showed some avoidance of high conductivities, but they still laid eggs resulting in reduced egg hatching, larval survival, and adult emergence, and (d) preferences were independent of natal environment. Our results show that C. tepperi is susceptible to ecological traps, depending on life stage and the relative differences in conductivities among potential oviposition sites. Our results highlight that (a) the fitness outcomes of habitat selection need to be assessed across the life cycle and (b) the relative differences in preference/suitability of habitats need to be considered in ecological trap research. This information can help determine why habitat preferences and their fitness consequences differ among species, which is critical for determining which species are susceptible to ecological traps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5512-5522
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume9
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes

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