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Journal Article

Adaptive behaviour of chironomid larvae (Chironomus riparius) in response to chemical stimuli from predators and resource density


Stief,  P.
Permanent Research Group Microsensor, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Holker, F., & Stief, P. (2005). Adaptive behaviour of chironomid larvae (Chironomus riparius) in response to chemical stimuli from predators and resource density. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 58(3), 256-263.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-D01F-2
Chemical-mediated effects of predatory fish on chironomid larvae behaviour have been ignored so far. Sediment-dwelling chironomid larvae inhabit protective burrows from which they extend their bodies only to feed on deposited detritus and microalgae from the surrounding sediment. Here, we performed factorial laboratory experiments to study whether fish-borne chemical cues (kairomones) are responsible for behavioural trait changes of chironomid larvae, and whether chironomid larvae are able to assess the densities of fish predators and food resources and the trade-off between them. We exposed naïve Chironomus riparius larvae to the chemical presence of zero, one, and ten predator fish (Rutilus rutilus) and offered two resource levels (low food, high food) for each treatment. Kairomones induced significant inherent behavioural trait changes in chironomid larvae. During the first 120 min after exposing chironomids to fish-conditioned water, we found a significant increase in digging activity with increasing predator density. After 3 days of exposure, the deepest chironomid burrows were found in treatments with the highest predator density. Chironomid larvae were significantly able to adjust their foraging behaviour to different predator densities and food concentrations and trade off between them; that is, when fish predators were more abundant or when more food resources were available, the foraging activities of larvae were significantly reduced. Our data suggest that chemically mediated trait changes (burrowing and foraging behaviour) may cascade through the littoral food web.