, Volume 361, Issue 1-3, pp 135-143

A comparative study of the population biology of the American immigrant triclad Dugesia tigrina (Girard) in two British lakes

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Abstract

The population biology of the American immigrant triclad Dugesia tigrina was investigated in two British eutrophic lakes: Colemere, England, harbours an asexually reproducing population and Llyn Coron, North Wales, a population that reproduces both sexually and asexually. Monthly samples of triclads were taken from the undersides of stones in both lakes, and from ceramic tiles and plastic trays in Colemere and Llyn Coron, respectively, over two years. In both populations, body size-structure decreased slightly over winter, with an absence of very large and very small animals. Individual growth occurred in spring, and over summer the proportion of large and small individuals declined and increased, respectively. During September to November, size-structure was fairly stable. Increases in the size structure of the populations were associated with higher temperatures and an increased food supply; stability in size structure during the autumnal post-reproductive period, when temperatures were favourable for growth, to the occurrence of intraspecific competition for food; and decreases in size structure to lower temperatures during the winter. In both populations the density of triclads increased in summer to a peak in autumn, thereafter declining to a nadir in spring. The numerical peak in autumn was due to recruitment from reproduction, and the subsequent decline to deaths following the occurrence of intraspecific competition for food in late autumn, some invertebrate predation and winter mortality. Asexual reproduction (fission) started in June and finished during August in both populations. Laboratory experiments indicated that the occurrence and rate of fission is influenced by temperature and the amount of available food. The critical temperature for the initiation and cessation of fission lay between 14 and 16 °C in laboratory studies, and in the field fissioning started as temperatures approached 15 °C. In Llyn Coron, cocoon deposition commenced in June, peaked in July with only a very few produced in August. Triclads collected from the field outside these months could not be induced to lay cocoons in the laboratory. Laboratory experiments showed that cocoons were deposited at temperatures of 17.5, 20, and 25 °C, but not at 12.5 °C. Thus, in the field, cocoon production started when temperatures approached 15 °C in June, but had ceased whilst temperatures were still in excess of 15 °C in late August. Termination of cocoon dsposition is associated with the disappearance of large triclads in excess of 20 mm2, below which animals are not sexually mature; disappearance of large animals was due to fissioning, death after sexual reproduction, and probably shrinkage due to severe intraspecific competition for food. Laboratory experiments indicated that the Colemere population had, potentially, greater fission production than the Llyn Coron population. Despite this, the numerical size of the Colemere and Llyn Coron populations increased seven-fold and eleven-fold, respectively, over the reproductive period. Whether or not this difference in reproductive potential between the populations will continue is speculative; the introduction of D. tigrina to Llyn Coron is relatively recent and the population may still be expanding to reach the carrying capacity of the habitat. Its high reproductive output must have helped its successful invasion of the lake.