Dispersal of the fairy shrimp Branchinecta coloradensis (Anostraca): Effects of hydroperiod and salamanders

Bohonak, Andrew J., Howard H. Whiteman

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(3), 1999, 487-493 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.3.0487

ABSTRACT: The absence of fairy shrimp (Anostraca) from permanent ponds and lakes is hypothesized to be the result of vertebrate predation. However, hatching cues for anostracan diapausing eggs include factors associated with the filling of temporary pond basins, and desiccation often increases the fraction of eggs that hatch. Thus, it is possible that in some species, eggs dispersed to permanent habitats never hatch, and vertebrate predation is not the proximate factor limiting distributions. We experimentally transplanted live egg-bearing females of the fairy shrimp Branchinecta coloradensis into permanent and temporary ponds in small chambers and allowed the chambers to overwinter in situ. There was no discernible effect of pond drying on hatching success (mean success = 50.9%). We also determined whether metamorphic salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum nebulosum) could disperse viable fairy shrimp eggs by feeding on B. coloradensis in one pond and defecating in another. Hatching success for a salamander ‘‘ingested’’ treatment was estimated as 0.9%. Results of a third experimental treatment suggested that the eggs being carried by females were not fully mature, so that ingestion resistance might vary throughout the reproductive period of B. coloradensis. By combining these results with data on salamander movement and diet, we estimated salamander-mediated dispersal rates for fairy shrimp eggs. Metamorphic A. tigrinum nebulosum sp. are likely to be dispersing thousands of B. coloradensis eggs among ponds annually. Because our results demonstrate that dispersal between ponds can occur in large numbers, they support the prevailing hypothesis that vertebrate predators limited to permanent ponds are the proximate mechanism preventing the invasion of fairy shrimp.

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