Guild structure in water mites ( Unionicola spp.) inhabiting freshwater mussels: choice, competitive exclusion and sex
- Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, 32306-2043, Tallahassee, FL, USA
Unionicolid water mites inhabit freshwater unionid mussels during the nymphal and adult stages of their life-cycle. Regular sampling of mussels from two sites in St. Mark's River, Fl. established that each of four species of water mite (Unionicola abnormipes, U. fossulata, U. serrata and U. formosa) occurred mainly in one or two of the mussel species available at each site. The role of preference for particular mussel species during host location was assessed for the first three mite species by choice experiments, in which mites were offered different mussel species simultaneously. In five out of six experiments, mites entered normally unused mussels as often as they did normally used ones. Additionally, a sexual difference in choice was found for U. fossulata, with males preferring one mussel species and females showing no preference. One mussel species, (Anodonta imbecilis), normally unused but chosen by mite species during the lab. experiments, is inhabited exclusively by the fourth mite species, U. formosa, in the field. An experiment showed that U. formosa excludes other mite species aggressively from Anodonta imbecilis. The results illustrate the sometimes misleading nature of simple sampling data as an indication of host specificity or host preference in parasites. They suggest also that the population dynamics of some parasites might be more fruitfully compared to unrelated, free-living species than to other parasites.
- 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
- 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
- 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie
- 1 - Life Sciences ; 2 - Agricultural and Biological Sciences ; 3 - Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics