Not so free range? Oviposition microhabitat and egg clustering affects Eretmoptera murphyi (Diptera: Chironomidae) reproductive success
Understanding the physiology of non-native species in Antarctica is key to elucidating their ability to colonise an area, and how they may respond to changes in climate. Eretmoptera murphyi is a chironomid midge introduced to Signy Island (Maritime Antarctic) from South Georgia (Sub-Antarctic) where it is endemic. Here, we explore the tolerance of this species’ egg masses to heat and desiccation stress encountered within two different oviposition microhabitats (ground surface vegetation and underlying soil layer). Our data show that, whilst oviposition takes place in both substrates, egg sacs laid individually in soil are at the greatest risk of failing to hatch, whilst those aggregated in the surface vegetation have the lowest risk. The two microhabitats are characterised by significantly different environmental conditions, with greater temperature fluctuations in the surface vegetation, but lower humidity (%RH) and available water content in the soil. Egg sacs were not desiccation resistant and lost water rapidly, with prolonged exposure to 75% RH affecting survival for eggs in singly oviposited egg sacs. In contrast, aggregated egg sacs (n = 10) experienced much lower desiccation rates and survival of eggs remained above 50% in all treatments. Eggs had high heat tolerance in the context of the current microhabitat conditions on Signy. We suggest that the atypical (for this family) use of egg sac aggregation in E. murphyi has developed as a response to environmental stress. Current temperature patterns and extremes on Signy Island are unlikely to affect egg survival, but changes in the frequency and duration of extreme events could be a greater challenge.
Authors: Bartlett, Jesamine, Convey, Peter ORCID record for Peter Convey, Hayward, Scott A.L.