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Oecologia

, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 131–136 | Cite as

The influence of sediment composition and leaf litter on the distribution of tubificid worms (Oligochaeta)

A field and laboratory study
  • M. N. Lazim
  • M. A. Learner
Original Papers

Summary

The horizontal distribution of three species of tubificid worm (Tubifex tubifex, Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri and L. udekemianus in the sediment of a small stream was examined. Worm distribution was most strongly correlated with the distribution of leaf litter. This relationship was examined in the laboratory by means of choice chambers. It was concluded that; 1) the addition, to an inorganic substratum, of conditioned leaf material, enhanced its attractiveness to the worms; 2) a combination of silt-clay and leaf material was preferred by the worms to mixtures of leaf material and coarser inorganic substrata 3) some leaf species were more attractive to the worms than others; 4) there were differences between the worm species in their preferences for the various leaf species; 5) none of the three tubificid species was exclusively associated with its preferred leaf species; 6) worms would switch to less attractive leaf species if preferred alternatives were unavailable; 7) leaf material only attracted the worms once it had become conditioned; 8) this appeal was lost when the leaves were autoclaved; and 9) substratum choice was independent of worm size.

We believe the worms were attracted to the leaves because the associated microfloras provided a concentration of bacterial food. Differences between the three tubificid species in their preferences for the various leaf species probably reduced trophic competition.

Key words

Tubifex Limnodrilus Leaf litter Sediment 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. N. Lazim
    • 1
  • M. A. Learner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Applied BiologyUniversity of Wales Institute of Science and TechnologyCardiffWales, UK

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