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Netherlands Polar Data Center

Publication - Food choice of Antarctic soil arthropods clarified by stable isotope signatures

Abstract

Antarctic soil ecosystems are amongst the most simplified on Earth and include only few soil arthropod species, generally believed to be opportunistic omnivorous feeders. Using stable isotopic analyses, we investigated the food choice of two common and widely distributed Antarctic soil arthropod species using natural abundances of C-13 and N-15 and an isotope labelling study. In the laboratory we fed the isotomid springtail Cryptopygus antarcticus six potential food sources (one algal species, two lichens and three mosses). Our results showed a clear preference for algae and lichens rather than mosses. These results were corroborated by field data comparing stable isotope signatures from the most dominant cryptogams and soil arthropods (C. antarcticus and the oribatid mite Alaskozetes antarcticus). Thus, for the first time in an Antarctic study, we present clear evidence that these soil arthropods show selectivity in their choice of food and have a preference for algae and lichens above mosses.

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