The effect of feeding regime on larval black fly (Diptera: simuliidae) primary head fan ray number
Lucas, Peter E.
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Identification of larval simuliids has always been difficult due to the morphological similarity many species bear to one another. For this reason all characters available have been drawn upon to aid in species identification, including head fan ray number. Even in light of an increasing body of anecdotal reports that head fan ray number is not fixed, it has continued to be used to aid species identification. In the current experiment simuliid larvae were reared under controlled laboratory conditions to last instar in one of three feeding regimes. Out of nine trials, the results of six showed a significant inverse relationship between feeding regime and head fan ray number. In addition to the laboratory experiments, larvae were also collected from the field over the course of the spring and summer, 1994. From these samples significant interspecific and intraspecific variations in head fan ray number were found both spatially and temporally within Algonquin Park. From these data it is concluded that head fan ray number for the species analysed is a developmentally plastic character, which varies in response to food availability. Furthermore, given the extreme variations in head fan ray number found in some species, I recommend that head fan ray number not be used as an aid to identification unless it can be shown to be a fixed character for the species in question.