Stream Insects As Passive Suspension Feeders: Effects Of Velocity And Food Concentration On Feeding Performance

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Benthic suspension feeders are important components of aquatic ecosystems, often dominating the use of space and influencing patterns of material cycling between the water column and benthos. Biomechanical theory predicts that feeding by these consumers is governed by the flux (i.e., product of food concentration and velocity) of particulate material to their feeding appendages. We performed a laboratory flume experiment to test how feeding by larval black flies (Simulium vittatum Zett.) responds to independent manipulations of flow and food concentration. We quantified larval body posture, flick rate of the labral fans, and ingestion rate as a function of two concentrations of a baker's yeast/chalk suspension (0.96 and 4.44 mg l–1) and five water velocities (20, 30, 45, 60, and 90 cm s–1). Using analysis of covariance, we found that both flick rate and ingestion rate increased in a decelerating manner with increasing velocity, while fan height decreased linearly with increasing velocity. In contrast, food concentration had no effect on any aspect of feeding behavior. Thus, although both velocity and food concentration contribute to particle flux, our results indicate that the two were not substitutable under the range of conditions tested here.