Habitat selection by chironomid larvae: fast growth requires fast food

E.M. de Haas, C. Wagner, A.A. Koelmans, M.H.S. Kraak, W. Admiraal

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53 Citations (Scopus)


1. Sediments have been considered as a habitat, a cover from predators and a source of food, but also as a source of potential toxic compounds. Therefore, the choice of a suitable substrate is essential for the development of chironomids. 2. For the midge Chironomus riparius (Meigen 1804) the growth rate of larvae has often been related to the food quality in sediments rather than to the amount of toxicants in the sediment. Both food quality and sediment-bound toxicants have been reported to determine the field distribution of chironomid larvae. 3. We therefore studied the habitat selection by C. riparius larvae of floodplain lake sediments, differing in both food quality and concentrations of sediment-bound toxicants. We offered the different sediments pairwise to the chironomid larvae in a choice experiment and their settlement in the paired sediments was determined after 10 days. 4. It was observed that larvae showed a clear preference for sediments with higher food quality, which also provided better growth conditions, and that the food quality overruled avoidance of the sediments with higher toxicant concentrations. 5. Our observations correspond with the persistence of this fast growing opportunistic chironomid species in organically enriched aquatic ecosystems independent of the contamination level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-155
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • floodplain lake-sediments
  • riparius meigen
  • community composition
  • tentans diptera
  • toxicity tests
  • organic-matter
  • particle-size
  • bioassays
  • invertebrates
  • avoidance


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