, Volume 273, Issue 2, pp 67–75 | Cite as

Does body size difference in the leeches Glossiphonia complanata (L.) and Helobdella stagnalis (L.) contribute to co-existence?

  • A. J. Martin
  • R. M. H. Seaby
  • J. O. Young


The effect of predator and prey body size on the feeding success of the British lake-dwelling leeches Glossiphonia complanata and Helobdella stagnalis was examined in the laboratory, and any involvement of size difference between the leeches in allowing coexistence in the field assessed. G. complanata breeds in advance of H. stagnalis and maintains a body size advantage throughout their annual life-cycle. In experiments, conducted at 14 °C and a photoperiod of 16 hrs L: 8 hrs D, three size classes of leeches of each species were each exposed to each of three size classes of each of five prey species, viz. Tubifex sp., Chironomus sp., Asellus aquaticus, Lymnaea peregra and Potamopyrgus jenkinsi. For each prey species, three different types of experiments were performed: one leech exposed to four prey individuals; four leeches of the same species with sixteen prey; and two leeches of each species with sixteen prey. In the first experiment, all sizes of G. complanata were capable of feeding on all sizes of the prey types offered; the same was true for H. stagnalis with exceptions of feeding on large A. aquaticus and large L. peregra. For both species, but especially for G. complanata, there was a trend within each size class of leech for decreasing proportions of fed leeches with increasing prey size, and within each size class of prey for an increasing proportion of fed leeches with increasing leech size; however there were several exceptions to these trends. Both leeches fed extensively on Tubifex sp. but there were significant differences in the proportions feeding on other prey types; G. complanata fed more on A. aquaticus and the two snail species, and less on Chironomus, than H. stagnalis. The effect of increasing the number of leech individuals from one to four individuals, of the same or mixed species, had little effect on the proportion of leeches which had fed. It is concluded that large G. complanata will have access to large individuals of certain prey taxa denied H. stagnalis, which may lessen the intensity of interspecific competition.

Key words

Glossiphonia complanata Helobdella stagnalis leeches lake food competition 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Martin
    • 1
  • R. M. H. Seaby
    • 1
  • J. O. Young
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolEngland

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