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Revista de la Sociedad Entomológica Argentina

Print version ISSN 0373-5680On-line version ISSN 1851-7471

Rev. Soc. Entomol. Argent. vol.67 no.3-4 Mendoza July/Dec. 2008


New phytotelmic habitat of Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus (Diptera: Chironomidae)

Un nuevo hábitat de fitotelmata para Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus (Diptera: Chironomidae)

Augusto Siri*, Mariano Donato** y Analía C. Paggi*

* ILPLA (Instituto de Limnología "Dr. Raúl A. Ringuelet")CCT-CONICET La Plata / UNLP, CC712; e-mail: /
**Laboratorio de Sistemática y Biología Evolutiva (LASBE), Museo de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n (1900), La Plata, Argentina; e-mail:

ABSTRACT: This is the first report of the non-biting midge Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus Donato & Paggi 2005 associated to the impounded water of Dipsacus fullonum L. plants.

KEY WORDS: Argentina; Dipsacus fullonum; Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus; Phytotelmata.

RESUMEN: Esta es la primera cita de Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus Donato & Paggi 2005, asociado al agua almacenada en las axilas de Dipsacus fullonum L.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Argentina; Dipsacus fullonum; Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus; Fitotelmata.

Recibido: 12-05-2008;
Aceptado: 24-06-2008

Species of the cosmopolitan midge Metriocnemus van der Wulp (Diptera: Chironomidae: Orthocladiinae) have been found in a wide range of aquatic habitats, showing one of the broadest distributions for a dipteran genus (Saether, 1989). Phytotelmata are included among the aquatic habitats in which Metriocnemus species develop. Phytotelmata are structures present in terrestrial plants such as modified leaves, leaf axils, flowers, stem holes or depressions, open fruits and fallen leaves, which allow water to impound (Fish, 1983). Phytotelmata have a world-wide distribution but are more common in tropical areas, where plant diversity and rainfall are higher. Impounded water provides a suitable habitat for the development of numerous chironomid species and other Diptera (Donato & Paggi, 2005). The water bodies impounded by phytotelmata can be regarded as aquatic microcosms (Epler & Janetzky, 1999). Therefore, phytotelmata have been used in ecological studies such as community composition, intra and interspecific interactions, trophic webs, dispersion, colonization, influence of biotic and abiotic factors on the biota, and have been also used in studies of insect-plant coevolution (Buckley et al., 2004). Moreover, the importance of phytotelmata is that they may act as reservoirs for breeding of some insect vectors (Pajot, 1983).
Metriocnemus is the most common Chironomidae genus inhabiting phytotelmata. Immature stages of species of Metriocnemus have been found growing in the impounded water of different plants such as Eryngium L. spp. (Apiaceae), Dipsacus L. spp. (Dipsacaceae) spp, the pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea L. (Sarraceniaceae), Scirpus selvaticus L. (Cyperaceae), Lobelia satimae R.E. Fries & T.C.E Fries (Campanulaceae), Senecio brassicae R.E. Fries (Asteraceae), wild bananas (Musaceae), some bromeliad species, and in the waterfilled tree holes of Fagus sylvaticus L. (Fagaceae) (Pinder, 1995).
Phytotelm-inhabiting insects exhibit different degrees of host-plant specificity, being restricted in some cases to a single species of plant. Female Metriocnemus knabi Coq have a high degree of specificity and oviposit in water impounded by the pitcher plant S. purpurea, which provides an adequate aquatic habitat for the developing larvae (Nastace et al., 1995). Other phytotelm-inhabiting insects use several different species of host plants which have similar structures (Fish, 1983). Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus Donato & Paggi was cited as living specifically in the impounded water of Eryngium pandalifolium Chamisso & Schlechtendal and E. cabrerae Pontiroli plants (Apiaceae) from different parts of Argentina and Uruguay (Donato & Paggi, 2005). Eryngium L. is a widespread genus of perennial, rhizomatous herbs, including some species that capture and retain water in their leaf axils. The water impounded by Eryngium plants derives from rainfall, condensation or overflow from the surrounding terrain.
In the present study we expand the knowledge of the habitat range of M. eryngiotematus to phytotelmata habitats in plants other than Eryngium species. The study was conducted at the "Integral Natural Reserve" in Punta Lara, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. This Reserve is included in the biogeographic Pampeana Province of the Neotropical Region, and it is the southernmost relict of the subtropical forest(Cabrera, 1976). Samples were collected from water impounded in the weed Dipsacus fullonum L., which is an annual herb. Their basal leaves retain and accumulate water in which different insect species inhabit. This plant is native from Europe and Asia and was introduced to many countries, including Argentina. In Argentina species of Dipsacus gradually invaded several provinces and currently this plant is considered a pest (Cabrera & Zardini, 1978). Metriocnemus larvae have previously been found in impounded water in Dipsacus spp. from the Holarctic region (Pinder, 1995).
Samples were obtained with hand pipettes from water retained in D. fullonum axils and fixed in 70% ethanol. Immature chironomids collected from these plants were slidemounted and examined at high magnification with a compound microscope. As a result of this study, we have found immature stages of Metriocnemus eryngiotelmatus living in the impounded water of Dipsacus fullonum. This, expands the range of M. eryngiotelmatus to a new host-plant. However, we still do not know how frequently M. eryngiotelmatus oviposits in this plant compared with the use of Eryngium cabrerae and E. pandalifolium as oviposition sites, or if the presence of this midge in D. fulonum is accidental. Future studies will elucidate the ecological aspects of this plant-insect association.
Material examined: larvae and pupae, Punta Lara (34° 51' 53" S, 57° 52' 23" W), Buenos Aires, Argentina, 20-X-2005, R. Campos col., M. Donato, det.


The authors wish to thank Raúl Campos for providing the material examined and for a critical review of the manuscript, and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. The present article is scientific contribution number 823 of the Instituto de Limnología (ILPLA).


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