Habitat Habit And Trophic Classification System

The classification system used here for lotic and lentic habitats stresses the basic distinction between flowing water (i.e., streams, rivers) and standing water (i.e., ponds, lakes, swamps, marshes) habitats (Table II). This separation is generally useful in describing the specific microhabitats (e.g., sediments, vascular hydrophytes, detritus) in which aquatic insects may be found. Both stream/river currents and lake shoreline waves often create erosional (riffle-type) habitats and may resemble each other in their physical characteristics, whereas river floodplain pools and stream/river backwaters create depositional (pool-type) habitats that may resemble lake habitats as well (Table II). Within a given habitat, the modes by which individuals maintain their location (e.g., clingers on surfaces in fast-flowing water, sprawlers on sand or on surfaces of floating leaves, climbers on stem-type surfaces, burrowers in soft sediments) or move about (e.g., swimmers, divers, surface skaters) have been categorized (Table III). The distribution pattern resulting from habitat selection by a given aquatic insect species reflects the optimal overlap between habit and physical environmental conditions that comprise the habitat, such as bottom type, flow, and turbulence. Because food in aquatic habitats is almost always distributed in a patchy fashion, the match between habitat and habit is maximized in certain locations. This combination will often result in the maximum occurrence of a particular species.

In view of the complex physical environment of streams, it is not surprising that benthic invertebrates have evolved a diverse array of morphological adaptations and behavioral mechanisms for exploiting foods. Throughout this article we will follow the functional classification system originally described by K. W. Cummins in 1973, which is based on the mechanisms used by invertebrates to acquire foods (Table IV). These functional groups are as follows:

• Shredders, which are insects and other animals that feed directly on large pieces of organic matter (e.g., decomposing leaves and fragments of wood >1 mm in size) and their associated fungi and bacteria, and convert them into fine particulate organic matter (FPOM) through maceration, defecation, and physical degradation;

• Collector-filterers, which have specialized anatomical structures (e.g., setae, mouth brushes, fans, etc.) or silk and silklike secretions that act as sieves to remove fine particulate matter less than 1 mm in diameter from the water column;

• Collector-gatherers, which gather food, primarily FPOM, that is deposited within streams or lakes;

• Scrapers, which have mouthparts adapted to graze or scrape materials (e.g., periphyton, or attached algae, and the associated microbes) from rock surfaces and organic substrates;

• Predators, which feed primarily on other animals by either engulfing their prey or piercing prey and sucking body contents.

These functional feeding groups refer primarily to modes of feeding or the means by which the food is acquired, and the food type per se (Table IV). For example, shredders may select leaves that have been colonized by fungi and bacteria; however, they also ingest attached algal cells, protozoans, and various other components of the fauna along with the leaves.

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