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Dietary composition and fatty acid content of giant salmonflies (Pteronarcys californica) in two Rocky Mountain rivers

January 27, 2022

Many aquatic invertebrates are declining or facing extinction from stressors that compromise physiology, resource consumption, reproduction, and phenology. However, the influence of these common stressors specifically on consumer–resource interactions for aquatic invertebrate consumers is only beginning to be understood. We conducted a field study to investigate Pteronarcys californica (i.e., the “giant salmonfly”), a large-bodied insect that is ecologically and culturally significant to rivers throughout the western United States. We sampled gut contents and polyunsaturated fatty acid composition of salmonflies to compare resource consumption across river (Madison or Gallatin, Montana), sex (male or female), and habitat (rock or woody debris). We found that allochthonous detritus comprised the majority of salmonfly diets in the Gallatin and Madison Rivers, making up 68% of the gut contents on average, followed by amorphous detritus, diatoms, and filamentous algae. Diets showed little variation across river, sex, or length. Minor differences in diets were detected by habitat type, with a higher proportion of diatoms in the diets of salmonflies collected from rocky habitat compared to woody debris. Fatty acid composition generally supported the results of gut content analysis but highlighted the importance of primary producers. The presence of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and alpha linolenic acid (18:3n-3) indicated consumption of diatoms and filamentous green algae, respectively. Our research underscores the importance of a healthy riparian zone that provides allochthonous detritus for invertebrate nutrition as well as the role of algae as an important source of fatty acids.

Publication Year 2022
Title Dietary composition and fatty acid content of giant salmonflies (Pteronarcys californica) in two Rocky Mountain rivers
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.3904
Authors Lindsey K. Albertson, Michelle A. Briggs, Zachary Maguire, Sophia Swart, Wyatt F. Cross, Cornelia W. Twining, Jeff S. Wesner, Colden V. Baxter, David Walters
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere Naturalist
Index ID 70240243
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center; Fort Collins Science Center