Evidence for predatory flatworms as organizers of zooplankton and mosquito community structure in rice fields

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I present evidence from two field studies and one laboratory experiment that the predatory flatworm, tentatively indentified as Mesostoma nr. lingua, can be important in organizing invertebrate communities in rice fields. In the first field study, I assessed the importance of various predators including two fishes, in explaining among-plot variation in mosquito abundance during a five week interval. Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) abundance was not significantly associated with densities of either mosquito, Culex tarsalis or Anopheles freeborni, except for the final week. Associations between green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) juveniles and mosquitoes were demonstrated for only A. freeborni - a positive association. Densities of Mesostoma were negatively associated with C. tarsalis and A. freeborni densities. C. tarsalis, protected from flatworms in small-mesh cages, had a much greater survival rate than those that were exposed in large-mesh cages. C. tarsalis survival, when left unprotected in large-mesh cages, was negatively correlated with field densities of flatworms and with the number of flatworms found inside the cages. Survival was also positively correlated with field densities of mosquitoes. In the second field study, Mesostoma densities were negatively correlated with C. tarsalis, A. freeborni, Cladocera and Ostracoda in rice field enclosures early in the season. Cyclopoid copepod densities were not significantly associated with this predator. In a laboratory experiment, predation by Mesostoma on C. tarsalis larvae was reduced when presented with an alternative prey, Moina micrura (a cladoceran). These results suggest that flatworms, via predation, can have large effects on the structure of mosquito and zooplankton communities in rice fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-191
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Anopheles freeborni
  • Culex tarsalis
  • Mesostoma
  • alternative prey
  • community structure
  • predation
  • zooplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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