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The productivity of the macroinvertebrate prey of the platypus in the upper Shoalhaven River, New South Wales

Marchant, R., Grant, T. R.
Marine & freshwater research 2015 v.66 no.12 pp. 1128-1137
Chironomidae, Coleoptera, Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Ornithorhynchus, Sphaeriidae, Trichoptera, benthic organisms, diet, energy, foraging, habitats, landscapes, macroinvertebrates, pouches, rivers, New South Wales
The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) feeds almost exclusively on benthic macroinvertebrates, yet no attempt has been made to link its energy demands with the productivity of its benthic macroinvertebrate prey. In the upper Shoalhaven River, New South Wales, we estimated macroinvertebrate production (in 2009 and 2011) from benthic samples and recorded platypus diet (2009 only) from cheek pouch samples. Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera and Chironomidae were the most numerous of six major groups in both the cheek pouches and the benthic samples. Three other groups (Odonata, Coleoptera, Sphaeriidae) were much less abundant in the benthos, but Odonata were common in the cheek pouches. In both years the Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera and Chironomidae had levels of production that were an order of magnitude higher than those of the three other groups. Rank correlation indicated that the most productive taxa were those most likely to occur in the cheek pouches. Total macroinvertebrate production for the six groups varied from 7.8gDWm-2year-1 in 2009 to 13.1gDWm-2year-1 in 2011. Previous estimates of field metabolic demand of the platypus enabled calculation of the number that could be supported by a given level of production. The observed levels of production were sufficient to support 13–27 platypuses in 2009 and 22–45 in 2011 along a 1.5-km reach of the river. Despite considerable landscape change, productive foraging habitat persists in the upper Shoalhaven River.