Masses of the marine insect Pontomyia oceana at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
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KeywordsWater Surface Water Temperature Indian Ocean Food Source Life Span
Pontomyia, an exclusively marine genus of flightless chironomid insect, are rarely observed on the ocean surface. Only three genetically distinct species from the genus are described: P. natans, P. pacifica, and P. oceana, of which one, Pontomyia oceana, has been previously recorded at only three locations [Palau (males only), Heron Island (Queensland, Australia), and Taiwan (Huang et al. 2014)]. Upon maturation, P. oceana synchronously emerge at the water surface to reproduce in one of the shortest adult life spans (1–3 h) among all insects (Soong et al. 1999).
These marine insect masses were similar in scale to the masses of coral spawn seen along the Ningaloo Reef in coral spawning season and may represent a previously unrecognized food source for reef inhabitants. Our observation is an important documentation of an expansion of the previously known distribution of P. oceana.
Many thanks to D. Huang for conducting the DNA sequencing for the specimens. Thanks to M. Vanderklift, R. Babcock, O. Berry, and D. Thomson for their enthusiasm and support.
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