, Volume 691, Issue 1, pp 203–212 | Cite as

Experimental evidence for niche segregation in a sister species pair of non-biting midges

  • Sabrina NemecEmail author
  • Maren Heß
  • Carsten Nowak
  • Markus Pfenninger
Primary research paper


The principle of limiting similarity states that closely related species need to partition resources of the habitat in order to coexist in the same general area. We tested this hypothesis experimentally with a sister species pair of non-biting midges (Chironomus riparius and C. piger) by assessing their relative larval fitness under several concentrations of nitrite and temperature regimes, as suggested by the observed habitat segregation in a previous field study. Both chironomid species often occur in eutrophic habitats like agricultural areas or industrial point source effluents. Based on field observations, we hypothesised C. piger to tolerate higher nitrite concentrations, higher temperatures and larger temperature ranges than C. riparius. As predicted, C. piger coped better with higher nitrite concentrations. Against the expectations, C. riparius had a tendentially higher fitness at both higher constant temperatures and larger daily temperature ranges. However, the interaction of both stressors favoured C. piger in warm high-nitrite habitats thus concurring to the field observations. The complex interaction of candidate environmental factors with antagonistic effects found here emphasises thus the necessity to experimentally assess field observations of niche segregation.


Chironomidae Niche partitioning Nitrite Temperature Life-cycle experiments 



The kind assistance of Lucas Jagodzinski, Christiane Frosch and the staff of the Departments Aquatic Ecotoxicology and Ecology & Evolution of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main is greatly appreciated. We also thank Christian Abel and Simit Patel for language corrections. This research project has been funded by the research funding programme “LOEWE—Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz” of Hesse’s Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and the Arts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabrina Nemec
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Maren Heß
    • 3
    • 4
  • Carsten Nowak
    • 2
  • Markus Pfenninger
    • 1
  1. 1.Molecular Ecology GroupBiodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) by Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Goethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Conservation Genetics GroupSenckenberg Research Institutes and Natural History MuseumsGelnhausenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Aquatic Ecotoxicology, Faculty of Biological SciencesGoethe University Frankfurt am MainFrankfurt am MainGermany
  4. 4.Institute for HydrobiologyTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany

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