The Pleuston Community

The unique properties of the water surface or air—water interface constitute the environment of the pleuston community. The Collembola, or springtails, are small in size, have a springing organ (furcula), and a water-repelling cuticle that enables them to be supported by and move across water surfaces. Among the true bugs, the Gerridae (water striders) and related families, the Veliidae (broad-shouldered water striders) and Hydrometridae (water measurers), are able to skate across the water. Adaptations for this habit include retractable preapical claws to assist in swimming, elongate legs

FIGURE 3 Typical insects inhabiting lentic environments. (A) Diptera: Chaoboridae (Chaoborus), (B) Trichoptera: Limnephilidae (Limnephilus), (C) Coleoptera: Dytiscidae (Agabus), (D) Coleoptera: Dytiscidae. (Photographs in A, B, and C by M. Higgins.)

FIGURE 4 Typical insects inhabiting lentic environments (A) Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae (Hydrochara). (Photograph by M. Higgins.) (B) Diptera: Chironomidae (Chironomus), (C) Odonata: Libellulidae (Pantala). (Photograph by M. Higgins.)

and body to distribute the insect's weight over a large area of the surface film, and hydrofuge (nonwettable) hairpiles for support on the surface. Some gerrids also are capable of detecting surface vibrations caused by potential prey. Adult whirligig beetles (Gyrinidae) live half in and half out of water with each eye divided into upper and lower halves, permitting vision simultaneously in both the air and the water; glands keep the upper portion of the body greased to repel water. The middle and hind legs of adult gyrinids are paddle shaped, enabling them to be one of the most effective swimming invertebrates. Among the Diptera, only the mosquitoes (Culicidae) may be considered to be permanent members of the pleuston of lentic waters. The larvae and pupae of most species use the underside of the surface film for support. Larval Anopheles lie horizontally immediately beneath the air—water interface, supported by tufts of float hairs on each. Larvae of most other genera (Aedes, Culex, Culiseta) hang upside down, with an elongated terminal respiratory siphon penetrating the surface film. Feeding adaptations associated with pleuston specialization include predation by the Hemiptera and Coleoptera, to practically all functional feeding modes by different mosquito larvae, including collecting-filtering and gathering, scraping, and shredding (Table IV).

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