Freshwater food webs are dominated by aquatic invertebrates whose trophic relationships are often poorly known. Here, I used laboratory experiments to study the role of a water bug, Sigara striata, as a potential predator and prey in food webs of stagnant waters. Multiple-choice predation experiment revealed that Sigara, which had been considered mostly herbivorous, also consumed larvae of Chironomus midges. Because they often occur in high densities and are among the most ubiquitous aquatic insects, Sigara water bugs may be important predators in fresh waters. A second experiment tested the role of Sigara as a potential prey for 13 common invertebrate predators. Mortality of Sigara inflicted by different predators varied widely, especially depending on body mass, foraging mode (ambush/searching) and feeding mode (chewing/suctorial) of the predators. Sigara was highly vulnerable to ambush predators, while searching predators caused on average 8.1 times lower mortality of Sigara. Additionally, suctorial predators consumed on average 6.6 times more Sigara individuals than chewing predators, which supports previous results hinting on potentially different predation pressures of these two types of predators on prey populations. The importance of these two foraging-related traits demonstrates the need to move from body mass based to multiple trait based descriptions of food web structure. Overall, the results suggests that detailed experimental studies of common but insufficiently known species can significantly enhance our understanding of food web structure.
Klecka J. (2014) The role of a water bug, Sigara striata, in freshwater food webs. PeerJ 2: e389.
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