Oceanic diffusion and the pelagic insects Halobates spp. (Gerridae: Hemiptera)
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Five pelagic Halobates species occupy a vast area from 40∘ north to 40∘ south in the three major oceans. Oceanic diffusion, constantly acting to disperse these insects, must be an important factor in determining their life history and distribution. We investigated the effects of oceanic diffusion on the following aspects of these insects. (1) The estimated radius of a patch of Halobates could be expanded by oceanic diffusion alone from an initial point of origin to 1250 km in 60 d. This distance is about 1/12 of the maximum distributional range of H. micans in the Pacific Ocean. Mutual encounter rates due to oceanic turbulence could be as high as 11 d−1 even at low population densities (100 ind km−2). This suggests that individuals from their original habitat could find mates even when they had been carried a long distance. Thus, extensive gene mixing may occur over the whole range of a species' distribution. (2)␣Estimated growth rates are rather low (0.0026 to 0.0079 d−1) compared with those of other insects. However, they are offset by a long life span (over 90 d) and an extended oviposition period (perhaps over 2␣months). Thus, pelagic Halobates spp. appear to have adopted a strategy of slow growth and prolonged longevity to cope with living in an unstable physical environment that is constantly disturbed by storms and winds.
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