The Science of Nature

, 103:7 | Cite as

Light triggers habitat choice of eyeless subterranean but not of eyed surface amphipods

  • Žiga Fišer
  • Luka Novak
  • Roman Luštrik
  • Cene FišerEmail author
Original Paper


Boundaries of species distributions are the result of colonization-extinction processes. Survival on the boundary depends on how well individuals discriminate optimal from suboptimal habitat patches. Such behaviour is called habitat choice and was only rarely applied to macroecology, although it links species ecological niche and species distribution. Surface and subterranean aquatic species are spatially strongly segregated, even in the absence of physical barriers. We explored whether a behavioural response to light functions as a habitat choice mechanism that could explain species turnover between surface and subterranean aquatic ecosystems. In a controlled laboratory experiment, we studied the behavioural response to light of ten pairs of surface and subterranean amphipods that permanently co-occur in springs. Surface species showed a weak photophobic, photoneutral, and in one case, photophilic response, whereas all subterranean species showed a strong photophobic response. Eyeless subterranean but not eyed surface amphipods appear to orient themselves with light cues. On a local scale, this difference possibly diminishes harmful interactions between the co-occurring amphipods, whereas on a regional scale, photophobia could explain limited dispersal and a high degree of endemism observed among subterranean species.


Photophobia Habitat choice Distribution Gammarus Niphargus 



We are grateful to Peter Trontelj, Simona Prevorčnik and Florian Malard for thoughtful discussions on experimental design and comments on early drafts of the manuscript. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful commentaries. We thank Teo Delić, Maja Zagmajster and Simona Prevorčnik for their help with fieldwork; Alenka Gaberščik and Dragan Abram for providing the Licor Li-1000 Data Logger and LI-190 Quantum Sensor; Andrej Mohar for providing the Minolta Illuminance Meter T-10; Miloš Vittori for providing the juvenile zebrafish. The project was partially supported by the Slovenian Research Agency—program P1-0184 (to ŽF and CF) and a PhD grant to ŽF.

Supplementary material

114_2015_1329_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (527 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 527 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Žiga Fišer
    • 1
  • Luka Novak
    • 1
  • Roman Luštrik
    • 1
  • Cene Fišer
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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