A review of the biology of British Naididae {(Oligochaeta)} with emphasis on the lotic environment

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1978
Authors:M. A. Learner, Lochhead, G., Hughes, B. D.
Journal:Freshwater Biology

Naidids live in a wide range of aquatic habitats but are particularly important numerically as part of the benthic fauna of rivers with stony substrates. In general they graze on bacteria and algae although some, particularly Chaetogaster spp., are mainly predaceous, and C. limnaei vaghini is a parasite of molluscs, chiefly Gastropoda. Food selection seems to be based largely on particle size although the food quality of the particles within the appropriate size-range influences rates of growth and reproduction. Major factors determining the distribution and abundance of naidid species are the nature of the substratum and the presence and kind of vegetation. Plants with a highly dissected form, a thick growth habit, and which permit the greatest periphyton development generally support the most abundant naidid populations. The oligochaete fauna of coarse substrates (stones and gravels) is often dominated by the Naididae but both species-richness and abundance of naidid populations are generally reduced where fine substrates (silts and muds) occur. The occurrence of worms within the substratum is also determined by its nature; naidids penetrate to depths of 20201370 cm in coarse substrates but rarely penetrate below 6 cm in mud. The principal factor limiting both depth penetration and the dominance of naidids in fine substrates is probably oxygen availability. Naidids reproduce both asexually and sexually, the former method predominating for most of the year. Asexual reproduction usually involves the budding-off of zooids but a few species fragment. Sexual reproduction is often infrequent; populations of some species produce few or no sexually mature individuals. In mature worms asexual reproduction virtually ceases. In populations that produce mature individuals there is apparently one sexual generation a year, usually occurring during the summer and autumn. Adults die soon after laying their cocoons. In general, naidids are most abundant during the summer months when rates of growth and asexual reproduction are stimulated by higher temperatures and a plentiful supply of food. A few species, however, e.g. Nais elinguis and Paranais litoralis, are more abundant in the spring. The response of naidid species to different kinds of pollution is varied but generally organic enrichment of rivers which have stony substrates results in a considerable (ten- to twenty-fold) increase in naidid abundance. Nais elinguis, N. barbata, N. communis, N. variabilis, and Chaetogaster diaphanus are often abundant in such rivers, the foremost species reaching densities of 200 000 m22122. Nais alpina, N. bretscheri, and N. pardalis appear to be relatively intolerant of organic enrichment. A substantial increase in naidid abundance is also promoted by the deposition of biologically inert particles (coal dust, china clay, sand) on the river bed. The importance of Naididae in relation to pollution surveillance of fresh waters is discussed.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith