Abstract. The ecological roles of small (1–1000 mg) predators in benthic marine systems are poorly understood. We investigated the natural history and predatory impact of one group of such mesopredators—larvae of dipteran flies in the genus Oedoparena—which prey on intertidal barnacles. We 1) quantified patterns of larval Oedoparena distribution and abundance in the Northwest Straits of Washington State, USA, 2) determined larval physiological tolerance limits in the laboratory, and 3) conducted a manipulative field experiment to assess the role of microhabitat temperature on predation rates in Oedoparena. Members of Oedoparena in Washington are univoltine, with peak larval abundance in late spring and early summer. Infestation frequencies in the barnacles Balanus glandula and Chthamalus dalli were as high as 22% and 35%, respectively. In laboratory studies, larvae of O. glauca were able to tolerate temperatures up to 37°C; however, this temperature is often exceeded in high intertidal habitats. In a field manipulation using experimental shades, we demonstrate that the alleviation of physiological stress greatly increased the abundance of larvae of Oedoparena spp. As a result of increased larval densities under shades, adult B. glandula mortality increased from 5% to nearly 30%, and C. dalli mortality increased from less than 20% to over 60%. Because high intertidal barnacles serve as food and habitat for a diverse array of species, Oedoparena spp. have the potential to play a major role in structuring high intertidal communities, particularly in cooler microhabitats.
Invertebrate Biology – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 2003
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