Life cycle and phenology of an Antarctic invader – the flightless chironomid midge, Eretmoptera murphyi
Knowledge of the life cycles of non-native species in Antarctica is key to understanding their ability to establish and spread to new regions. Through laboratory studies and field observations on Signy Island (South Orkney Islands, maritime Antarctic), we detail the life stages and phenology of Eretmoptera murphyi (Schaeffer 1914), a brachypterous chironomid midge introduced to Signy in the 1960s from sub-Antarctic South Georgia where it is endemic. We confirm that the species is parthenogenetic and suggest that this enables E. murphyi to have an adult emergence period that extends across the entire maritime Antarctic summer season, unlike its sexually reproducing sister species Belgica antarctica which is itself endemic to the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. We report details of previously undescribed life stages, including verification of four larval instars, pupal development, egg gestation and development, reproductive viability and discuss potential environmental cues for transitioning between these developmental stages. Whilst reproductive success is limited to an extent by high mortality at eclosion, failure to oviposit and low egg-hatching rate, the population is still able to potentially double in size with every life cycle.
Authors: Bartlett, Jesamine, Convey, Peter, Hayward, Scott A.L.