Density dependent shifts in attachment site by the ectosymbiotic chironomid Nanocladius asiaticus on its megalopteran host Protohermes grandis


Fumio Hayashi, Department of Biology, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Minamiosawa 1-1, Hachioji, Tokyo, 192-0397 Japan. Email:


Intraspecific interactions among ectosymbionts may occur when suitable attachment sites are limited to specific parts of their hosts. In this study, we examined attachment site selection by the ectosymbiotic chironomid Nanocladius (Plecopteracoluthus) asiaticus. Larvae and pupae of this chironomid attach to larvae of the megalopteran Protohermes grandis: they feed on algae and detrital materials caught on the chironomid's silken nets and on the body surface of the host. Sampling at approximately monthly intervals in central Japan revealed that the proportion of hosts with chironomids was relatively high and stable during the 2 year study period. When attached singly, larvae were usually found on the ventral side of the host's mesothorax. However, when two or more larvae were attached to a host, the mesothorax was occupied by only one larva (usually a large individual) and the other(s) were attached to the ventral side of the abdomen. Density dependent shifts in attachment sites were confirmed by a reattachment experiment in which a larva was removed from its host and released onto a new host with or without symbiosis by another individual. All of the larvae released singly on a host devoid of symbionts attached to the thoracic region and survived, whereas those released in pairs and not occupying this site were frequently lost. Thus, the thorax (particularly the mesothorax) is the most suitable attachment site, and there is a possibility that chironomid larvae compete for this site.