Gates, Andrew Russell
The physiological ecology of the specialist lagoon amphipod, Gammarus insensibilis.
University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering Science and Mathematics, School of Ocean and Earth Sciences,
Coastal lagoons are habitats of conservation importance. The characteristic fauna of lagoons includes a number of specialist species, some of which are scheduled for protection. Work on the conservation of coastal lagoons has suggested that detailed information on the ecology of lagoon specialist species is essential to ensure management strategies are relevant to the lagoonal species. This study addresses this issue by providing information about the monthly reproductive investment and energy-balance as well as interactions with parasites for the specialist lagoon amphipod, Gammarus insensibilis (Stock). For comparison information is also presented on the reproductive investment of the lagoonal isopod Idotea chelipes (Pallas).
Gilkicker lagoon on the south coast of England, UK, from which the majority of samples were taken, demonstrated environmental variability characteristic of coastal lagoons. Annually, temperature varied between 2 and 28 °C and salinity fluctuated between extremes of 24 and 39. The Lymington-Keyhaven lagoons, also on the south coast of England, demonstrated similar variation. This has implications for Gammarus insensibilis, and effects on reproductive investment were evident. The amphipod was shown to employ a continuous reproductive strategy but while the overall investment, expressed as clutch volume, remained relatively stable over the course of the year, the individual components varied. In the summer, when weight-specific embryo number was at its highest with a mean of 13 embryos mg dry wt.-1 the mean size of the individual embryos was small (0.032 mm3). The opposite was true in the winter months, with mean brood sizes as low as 6 embryos mg dry wt.-1 while mean embryo volume was larger, at 0.04 mm3. Idotea chelipes demonstrated a more seasonal reproductive strategy in which winter reproductive output was low.
The environmental variability also had effects on the metabolic rates of individual amphipods with temperature related increases in feeding and respiration rates in the summer months. Scope For Growth (SFG), a measure of net energy availability to the organism, was variable during the year and was unrelated to temperature and salinity. Lowest SFG occurred in spring in conjunction with peak reproductive output. This suggested that the amphipods were well adapted to the environmental variation of the lagoon and that it was reproductive investment that represented an important cost to the organism.
Eighty four percent of G. insensibilis from Gilkicker were shown to be infected by microphallid trematode parasites. Reproductive investment was negatively affected, with a 36.6 % reduction in weight-specific brood size associated with higher degrees of infection. Respiration rates were also reduced in the infected organisms. The high prevalence of the parasites and the related effects on the host suggest that trematode infection should be considered, alongside the characteristic habitat variability, as an important aspect of the ecology of lagoons.
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