, Volume 558, Issue 1, pp 133–139 | Cite as

Small-scale Spatial Distribution Variability in Terrestrial Tardigrade Populations

  • Harry A. MeyerEmail author


Terrestrial tardigrades are often found in the lichens and mosses growing on trees and rocks. The assertion that tardigrades in these habitats are very patchy in their distribution has rarely been backed by quantitative sampling. This study assesses spatial variability in tardigrade populations inhabiting small patches (0.1 cm2 to over 5 cm2) of moss and lichen on trees and rocks at three sites in the United States of America. Tardigrades were collected from four replicate rocks in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, with 30 lichen patches collected on two adjacent boulders and 20 moss patches on a second pair of boulders. In Fort Myers and in Citrus Springs, Florida, 30 lichen patches per tree were collected from two pairs of trees. The tardigrades in each sample were extracted, mounted, identified, and counted. The variation in tardigrade abundance among lichen or moss patches within rocks or trees was very high; the only consistent pattern was that very small patches usually lacked tardigrades. Tardigrade diversity and abundance also varied greatly within sites when lichens and mosses of the same species from different rocks and trees were compared (in the most extreme case one tree had numerous individuals of two tardigrade species present while the other had almost no tardigrades). The results of this quantitative sampling support the assertion that tardigrades are very patchy in distribution. Given the considerable time investment required for the quantitative processing of tardigrade samples, this high spatial variability in tardigrade diversity and abundance requires that researches testing ecological hypotheses about tardigrade abundance check variability before deciding how many samples to take.


patchiness sample size 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesMcNeese State UniversityLake CharlesUSA

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