, Volume 485, Issue 1-3, pp 199-203

The functional role of Gammarus(Crustacea, Amphipoda): shredders, predators, or both?

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Gammarus spp. are traditionally viewed under the functional feeding group (FFG) concept as herbivorous `shredders'. Although recent studies suggest that Gammarus should also be viewed as predators, this latter role remains contentious. Here, in a laboratory experiment, we objectively examine the balance between shredder and predator roles in a common freshwater species. Gammarus pulex preyed significantly on mayfly nymph, Baetis rhodani, in both the presence and absence of excess leaf material. There was no significant difference in predation where the alternative food, that is, leaf material, was present as compared to absent. Also, G. pulex shredded leaf material in the presence and absence of B. rhodani. However, shredding was significantly reduced where alternative food, that is, B. rhodani prey, was present as compared to absent. Further, G. pulex had a clear leaf species preference. Our results suggest that Gammarus function as both predators and shredders, with the balance of the two roles perhaps depending on food availability and quality. We discuss implications for the use of the FFG concept in assessing freshwater processes, and the role that Gammarus predation may play in structuring macroinvertebrate communities.