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Body Length Determines the Diet and Niche Specialization of Non-Biting Midge Predator (Tanypodinae) Larvae in Shallow Reservoirs

Saulino, H H L, Trivinho-Strixino, S
Neotropical entomology 2019 v.48 no.1 pp. 136-142
Oligochaeta, body length, diet, habitats, instars, larvae, littoral zone, midges, predators
The functional traits of species respond to environmental gradient changes, which, in turn, are responsible for the niche specialization of species. We analyzed the niche specialization of several Tanypodinae taxa (predatory non-biting midge, 4th instar, n = 693) along the depth zones of the water in six shallow tropical reservoirs. We measured the body length and diet composition of seven Tanypodinae larvae genus. Community-weighted mean (CWM) traits index was utilized to calculate the niche distribution of body length and diet composition. We analyzed the niche distribution of predator larvae, through a simple linear analysis of CWM index and the depth of the water, and by establishing correlations between body length and diet composition. In our study, it was found that the consumption of oligochaete (b = 0.30, SE ± 0.04, t = 7.02, p = 0.0001, R² = 0.45) and the body length (b = 0.64, SE ± 0.11, t = 5.44, p = 0.0001, R² = 0.33) increased in deeper zones. We observed a strong and positive relationship between oligochaete consumption and a longer body (r = 0.91, p = 0.0001). We inferred that changes in habitat characteristics, from littoral to deeper zones of the reservoirs, are expected to have influenced the selection of larvae traits predators. We concluded that body length determines the diet consumption and accurately reflects the niche distribution of Tanypodinae assemblages. The functional trait approach proved to be an efficient tool for the analysis of the ecological processes that determine the structure of a non-biting midge predator assemblage.