Zooplankters’ nightmare: the fast and efficient catching basket of larval phantom midges (Diptera: Chaoborus)

Sebastian Kruppert*, Lisa Deussen, Linda C. Weiss, Martin Horstmann, Jonas O. Wolff, Thomas Kleinteich, Stanislav N. Gorb, Ralph Tollrian

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)
    21 Downloads (Pure)


    Filter feeding zooplankton are a crucial component of limnic food webs. Copepods and cladocerans are important prey organisms for first-level predators like the common and abundant larvae of phantom midges (Chaoborus sp.). The latter possess a complex catching basket built of head appendages specialized to capture small crustaceans. The predator-prey-relationship of Chaoborus (Diptera, Nematocera) and Daphnia (Crustacea, Cladocera) has been studied in particular detail owing to the daphniids’ ability to react upon the threat of predation with inducible defenses. Daphnia pulex expresses so-called ‘neckteeth’ in the presence of Chaoborus larvae that are discussed as a defensive trait that interferes with the larval head appendages and their effectiveness has been shown in several studies. Nonetheless, mode of function of these neckteeth is not understood and the hypothesis that they interfere with the predator’s head appendages still has to be confirmed. To clarify the role of neckteeth in Daphnia, an understanding of the Chaoborus capture apparatus is essential. Here, we present a detailed three-dimensional analysis of Chaoborus obscuripes’ larval head morphology as well as a kinematic analysis of the attack motion, which revealed an impressive strike velocity (14 ms to prey contact). The movement of the larvae’s head appendages is reconstructed in the three-dimensional space using a combination of high-speed videography, micro-computed tomography and computer animation. Furthermore, we provide predation trial data to distinguish between pre- and post-attack defensive effects in D. pulex. Our findings suggest a combination of pre- and post-attack defenses with an average effectiveness of 50% each. With this study, we quantitatively describe prey capture kinematics of C. obscuripes and take a further step to reveal the neckteeth’ mode of function in D. pulex.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0214013
    Pages (from-to)1-17
    Number of pages17
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2019

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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