Habitat moisture availability and the local distribution of the Antarctic Collembola Cryptophygus antarcticus and Friesia grisea

Scott Hayward, MR Worland, Peter Convey, Jeffrey Bale

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Population densities of the Collembola Cryptopygus antarcticus and Friesea grisea were compared in two maritime Antarctic habitats with different moisture availability. C. antarcticus was absent from the drier rock platform habitat, where F. grisea was the only collembolan collected. In contrast, the sand/pebble habitat on East Beach had greater moisture availability, and C antarcticus dominated the arthropod community, with juveniles (individuals <1 mm length) representing 58% of the population. The hygropreference characteristics of F. grisea were determined in relative humidity (RH) gradients (12-98% RH) at 10 and 20 degreesC. F. grisea demonstrated a stronger preference for 98% RH conditions than C. antarcticus, suggesting that the former species is less likely to vacate moist refuges when available. The movement of both species was also monitored at 10 and 15 degreesC under conditions of 33, 75 and 100% RH. C. antarcticus was more active than F. grisea at both temperatures, and its movement increased at a greater rate as a consequence of reduced RH. The limited desiccation tolerance of C. antarcticus, combined with the increased water loss that would result from its continued movement under declining RH conditions, suggests this species is not well suited to drought-prone environments. In contrast, the reduced movement and 'risk averse' behavioural strategy of F. grisea, i.e. taking advantage of moist refuges when available, facilitates water conservation between precipitation/habitat rehydration events. This study provides the first evidence that moisture availability and habitat structure are potential habitat segregation mechanisms between these two Antarctic Collembola. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-934
Number of pages8
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2004


  • Antarctic
  • Collembola
  • Moisture availability
  • Habitat segregation


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