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Changes in feeding selectivity of freshwater invertebrates across a natural thermal gradient

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/04/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Current Zoology
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)231-242
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date27/01/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Environmental warming places physiological constraints on organisms, which may be mitigated by their feeding behavior. Theory predicts that consumers should increase their feeding selectivity for more energetically valuable resources in warmer environments to offset the disproportionate increase in metabolic demand relative to ingestion rate. This may also result in a change in feeding strategy or a shift towards a more specialist diet. This study used a natural warming experiment to investigate temperature effects on the feeding selectivity of three freshwater invertebrate grazers: the snail Radix balthica, the blackfly larva Simulium aureum, and the midgefly larva Eukiefferiella minor. Chesson’s Selectivity Index was used to compare the proportional abundance of diatom species in the guts of each invertebrate species with corresponding rock biofilms sampled from streams of different temperature. The snails became more selective in warmer streams, choosing high profile epilithic diatoms over other guilds and feeding on a lower diversity of diatom species. The blackfly larvae appeared to switch from active collector gathering of sessile high profile diatoms to more passive filter feeding of motile diatoms in warmer streams. No changes in selectivity were observed for the midgefly larvae, whose diet was representative of resource availability in the environment. These results suggest that key primary consumers in freshwater streams, which constitute a major portion of invertebrate biomass, can change their feeding behavior in warmer waters in a range of different ways. These patterns could potentially lead to fundamental changes in the flow of energy through freshwater food webs.