Hatching phenology and voltinism of Heterocypris barbara (Crustacea: Ostracoda) from Lampedusa (Sicily, Italy)

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Valeria Rossi *
Alessio Martorella
Paolo Menozzi
(*) Corresponding Author:
Valeria Rossi | valeria.rossi@unipr.it

Abstract

The persistence of crustacean populations in ephemeral ponds requires appropriate adaptations in life history strategies (e.g. in hatching phenology). Organisms take advantage of pond filling when it occurs and hedge their bets for the possibility to complete one or more life cycles or to produce resting stages that ensure that the population will not go extinct. We carried out laboratory experiments to investigate the dynamics of a sexual population of Heterocypris barbara from a vernal pool in Lampedusa Island (Sicily). Experimental organisms were obtained hydrating sediments from Aria Rossa temporary pond. Recruitment from resting eggs, voltinism, mean body size and sex ratio were observed in microcosms at different conductivities (high 2.0-2.7 mS cm-1, intermediate 1.0-1.1 mS cm-1 and low 0.5-0.6 mS cm-1). Microcosms were kept in laboratory controlled conditions: constant (24°C 12:12 L:D and 16°C 10:14 L:D photoperiod) or fluctuating thermal regimes. The experiment lasted 7 months. Resting and non-resting egg production and up to a bivoltine life cycle were observed. Recruitment events from egg bank and voltinism varied by thermal regime and conductivity. A prolonged recruitment phase occurred in conditions that could be considered a proxy of a rainy season (16°C, 10:14 L:D and low conductivity) or of long hydroperiods (spring thermal fluctuating regime and intermediate conductivity). At 24°C, age at reproduction of females from resting eggs almost doubled at low conductivity (in comparison with high conductivity). Low conductivity also reduced hatching time of resting eggs while it increased development time and age at maturity. In thermal fluctuating regime, degree-days to reproduction were about double than at constant 24°C. Males, observed in all microcosms, reached maturity faster and had a shorter life span than females. Males initially outnumbered females, but later in the experiments females became dominant. We also evaluated the effect of conductivity and thermal regimes on other traits like recruitment from egg bank, voltinism and sex ratio. We discuss whether our observations on a small population from temporary pools could be considered part of a diversified bet-hedging strategy.

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