Chemical signals and habitat selection by three zooplankters in Andean Patagonian ponds
TROCHINE, C, MODENUTTI, B. & BALSEIRO, E.
FRESHWATER BIOLOGY (PRINT)
WILEY-BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, INC,
Lugar: Malden; Año: 2009 vol. 54 p. 480 - 494
1. Zooplankton may react differently to chemical signals produced by macrophytes in shallow systems. They may be attracted by macrophytes, as the plants may be used as a refuge against predators, or the plants may have a repellent effect (e.g. when the plants are a habitat for numerous invertebrate predators or fish). In fishless Patagonian ponds, the structural complexity provided by macrophytes modulates the rate of predation on zooplankton by the invertebrate predator Mesostoma ehrenbergii (Turbellaria).2. We performed a field study to analyse the coexistence of M. ehrenbergii and three of its prey (two copepods, the calanoid Boeckella gracilis and the cyclopoid Acanthocyclops rubustus, and the cladoceran Ceriodaphnia dubia) in four ponds. In two of the ponds, we carried out day and night sampling to evaluate the influence of macrophytes on the distribution of these zooplankters. 3. In laboratory experiments, we analysed the response of the zooplankters to the chemical signals produced by macrophytes (the emergent Juncus pallescens and the submerged Myriophyllum quitense), the predator M. ehrenbergii and the alarm signal provided by a homogenate of conspecifics.4. Our field studies demonstrated the coexistence of M. ehrenbergii and the selected prey in different seasons and that A. robustus and C. dubia choose the vegetated area (a mixed bed of J. pallescens and M. quitense) over the non-vegetated area. The habitat choice experiments indicated that the presence of M. ehrenbergii may directly affect the habitat selection of B. gracilis, because this zooplankter swam away from the predator. In addition, Mesostoma may indirectly affect the habitat selection of the cyclopoid copepod A. robustus and the cladoceran C. dubia as both zooplankters exhibited a negative response to the alarm signal produced by crushed conspecifics. 5. The presence of the submerged M. quitense did not affect the horizontal movements of any of the zooplankters studied. In contrast, the emergent macrophyte J. pallescens elicited a positive response of B. gracilis, suggesting that this aquatic plant may act as a predation refuge. 6. Our results suggest that predator avoidance behaviour can occur in fishless environments in response to a tactile invertebrate predator like Mesostoma. In addition, the refuge effect of emergent macrophytes, enhancing the survival of pelagic zooplankters, may act as a key factor in stabilizing predator-prey interactions in fishless Patagonian ponds, as has been widely recorded in northern temperate lakes with fish.