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Water mite (Acari: Hydrachnidia) diversity and distribution in undisturbed Dinaric karst springs

Pozojević, Ivana, Brigić, Andreja, Gottstein, Sanja
Experimental & applied acarology 2018 v.76 no.1 pp. 123-138
Acari, acarology, autumn, ecosystems, environmental factors, fauna, freshwater, insects, life history, oxygen, spring, springs (water), summer, water mites, water temperature, Croatia, Mediterranean region
Large undisturbed karst springs in the Dinaric region are particularly interesting and extremely valuable and rare ecosystems, housing diverse and yet undiscovered water mite species. The complex life history traits of water mites include several life stages that are interconnected with other freshwater arthropod groups, making them important components of freshwater fauna. This study examined whether the differences in water mite assemblages between Mediterranean and alpine karst springs were driven by seasonal and/or regional changes in environmental conditions. The first ecological data on water mite dynamics and distribution in the Dinaric region of Croatia are presented. Water mites were represented by 11 taxa, decreasing in taxon richness from alpine to Mediterranean springs. Spatial patterns of water mite assemblages at the regional scale were best explained by water temperature, dissolved oxygen and water velocity. Pseudotorrenticola rhynchota and Oxus setosus were exclusively found in springs with higher water temperature and velocity, whereas the genera Aturus sp. and Woolastookia rotundifrons were exclusively recorded in the alpine springs, where oxygen concentrations were significantly higher. Atractides sp., Lebertia sp. and Sperchon sp. were recorded in most springs. Water mite abundances had a summer peak in the Mediterranean region, whereas two smaller peaks were observed in the spring and fall in the alpine region. Regional differences in the seasonality of water mite abundance were most likely patterned by the emergence of insect crenofauna.