• functional response;
  • invertebrate predators/disturbers;
  • meiofauna prey;
  • sediment types;
  • vertical distribution


1. Three groups of laboratory experiments clarified the role of nematodes as a potential food resource for the triclad Dugesia gonocephala. The first group measured the functional response of adult D. gonocephala feeding on juvenile or adult Caenorhabditis elegans. The feeding rates of D. gonocephala on adult and juvenile C. elegans followed a type II functional response. The maximum number of adult nematodes and juvenile nematodes eaten by a single D. gonocephala individual within 3 h was 94 and 197 nematodes, respectively.

2. A second group of microcosm experiments investigated the effect of D. gonocephala on the density and the vertical distribution of a nematode community in fine sand. The following treatments were performed: (i) microcosms with 400 nematodes and (ii) microcosms with 400 nematodes and one D. gonocephala. After 5 days, nematodes as a group, as well as the dominant species Tobrilus pellucidus and Trischistoma monohystera, showed no significant difference in vertical patterns between the treatments with and without D. gonocephala.

3. The third group of experiments determined whether grain size of the sediment (sand, fine gravel and coarse gravel) altered the ability of D. gonocephala to consume adult C. elegans. Sand and fine gravel reduced the predation effectiveness of D. gonocephala by 100%, whereas the predator consumed nematodes in coarse gravel (19 nematodes within 3 h).