Competition between two aquatic detritivorous isopods - a laboratory study

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The role of adult faeces in juvenile nutrition of two isopod species, Proasellus coxalis s.l. and Asellus aquaticus (L.), with similar trophic strategies and different reproductive output, has been studied in laboratory. Our aim was to consider the possible competitive mechanisms occurring at the beginning of the species coexistence using allopatric populations in single and mixed species experiments. Two series of competition experiments were performed. In the first, adult specimens were used for breeding and feeding trials. Both population dynamics and the percentage of ovigerous females and juveniles were evaluated during 10 months. Adult densities and juvenile percentage of A.aquaticus were lower in the presence of P. coxalis s.l. than when alone. At the end of the breeding experiments the dietary preferences of adults on a set of fungally conditioned leaf discs were not different among treatments. In the second series of experiments, the influence of coexistence on the feeding rates of young asellids and the relative importance of faeces and decaying plant material in their diet were investigated. Individual consumption by wild juveniles in multiple-choice laboratory experiments was measured by radioisotopes (32, 2P). Juveniles of P. coxalis s.l. showed the highest ingestion rates. In co-occurrence, contrary to A.aquaticus, they were able to further increase feeding on parental faeces. The role of parental faeces in the diet of the two species juveniles and the competitive dominance of P. coxalis s.l. are discussed.

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