Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Differentiating the roles of shrimp and aquatic insects in leaf processing in a Neotropical stream

Claudia M. Andrade A B , Vinicius Neres-Lima C and Timothy P. Moulton C D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Evolução, Instituto de Biologia Roberto Alcantara Gomes, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Rua São Francisco Xavier 524, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20550-013, Brazil.

B Present address: Laboratório de Limnologia, Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Avenida Carlos Chagas Filho 373, Edifício CCS, Bloco A, Ilha do Fundão, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21941-902, Brazil.

C Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biologia Roberto Alcantara Gomes, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Rua São Francisco Xavier 524, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20550-013, Brazil.

D Corresponding author. Email: moulton.timothy@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(9) 1695-1703 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16206
Submitted: 5 June 2016  Accepted: 17 November 2016   Published: 23 January 2017

Abstract

There is interest in the relationships between macroconsumers (e.g. shrimp) and aquatic insects, as well as their role in ecological processes, including leaf breakdown, in tropical freshwater environments. Many studies have shown that shrimp have the capacity to reduce the abundance of aquatic insects (by predation and behavioural inhibition) and promote leaf breakdown as shredders. To discriminate between these effects, we used fresh leaves of Erythroxylum pulchrum and manipulated the presence of shrimp and insects by electric exclusion at high and low intensities of electric field. In the control treatment (no electric exclusion) shrimp (the brushing collector Potimirim brasiliana and the shredding omnivore Macrobrachium olfersii) and aquatic insects (including shredders) were present. The low-intensity electric field excluded only shrimp, whereas the high-intensity electric field excluded both shrimp and medium- and large-sized aquatic insects (>2 mm). Leaf processing was approximately twice as fast in the absence of shrimp and in the presence of insects than when both or neither were present. This implied a trophic cascade of shrimp acting as potential predators of insect shredders, but not acting as shredders themselves. We postulate that increased leaf processing was caused by a behavioural response of the putative shredders to the absence of shrimp; abundant leptophlebiid ephemeropterans were the most likely shredders.

Additional keywords: electric exclusion, leaf decomposition, Leptophlebiidae, Macrobrachium, trophic cascade, tropical stream.


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