Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 183–189 | Cite as

Sciaridae in lake sediments: indicators of catchment and stream contribution to fossil insect assemblages

Original Paper


The larval head capsules of Sciaridae (black fungus gnats) are transported into lakes from terrestrial habitats, in most cases via streams or rivers, and preserve well in lake sediments. The abundance of sciarid remains can provide information on the importance of terrestrial and running-water input into fossil insect assemblages in lake sediments if examined in relation to the number of fossils of aquatic insects such as the Chironomidae, Thaumaleidae, Ceratopogonidae, or Simuliidae. Here we describe fossil head capsules of sciarid larvae and provide an example of how these remains can be used to constrain past changes in taphonomic processes that influence fossil chironomid records.


Fossil insects Sciaridae Chironomidae Diptera Lake sediments 



The data presented in this manuscript were partly produced during a visit by the lead author at the Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group and The Natural History Collections, University of Bergen, Norway. Financial support for this visit and the associated fieldwork via a Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship for prospective researchers (Fellowship 81BE-66224) and the Norwegian Research Council Strategic University Project ‘Norwegian Palaeoenvironments and Climate’ is gratefully acknowledged. We thank E. Willassen and H.J.B. Birks and their research teams for support during the Norwegian fieldwork and sample analysis, and O. Bennike, J.P. Smol, T. Solhøy, and E. Willassen for valuable comments on the manuscript. This is Netherlands Research School of Sedimentary Geology publication no. 20060803.


  1. Berg MP (2000) Mass–length and mass–volume relationships of larvae of Bradysia paupera (Diptera: Sciaridae) in laboratory cultures. Eur J Soil Biol 36:127–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bigler C, Heiri O, Krskova R, Lotter AF, Sturm M (2006) Distribution of diatoms, chironomids and cladocera in surface sediments of thirty mountain lakes in south-eastern Switzerland. Aquat Sci 68:154–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brooks SJ, Birks HJB (2001) Chironomid-inferred air temperatures from Lateglacial and Holocene sites in north-west Europe: progress and problems. Quaternary Sci Rev 20:1723–1741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brooks SJ, Bennion H, Birks HJB (2001) Tracing lake trophic history with a chironomid-total phosphorus inference model. Freshw Biol 46:513–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brooks SJ, Udachin V, Williamson BJ (2005) Impact of copper smelting on lakes in the southern Ural Mountains, Russia, inferred from chironomids. J Paleolimnol 33:229–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Currie DC, Walker IR (1992) Recognition and paleohydrologic significance of fossil black fly larvae, with a key to the Nearctic genera (Diptera: Simuliidae). J Paleolimnol 7:37–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Elias SA (1994) Quaternary insects and their environments. Smithsonian Institution Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  8. Elias SA (2001) Coleoptera and Trichoptera. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments. Zoological indicators, vol 4. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 67–80Google Scholar
  9. Frey DG (1964) Remains of animals in quaternary lake and bog sediments and their interpretation. Arch Hydrobiol Beih Ergeb Limnol 2:1–114Google Scholar
  10. Greenwood MT, Wood PJ, Monk WA (2006) The use of fossil caddisfly assemblages in the reconstruction of flow environments from floodplain paleochannels of the River Trent, England. J Paleolimnol 35:747–761CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Heiri O (2004) Within-lake variability of subfossil chironomid assemblages in shallow Norwegian lakes. J Paleolimnol 32:67–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heiri O, Lotter AF (2003) 9000 years of chironomid assemblage dynamics in an Alpine lake: long-term trends, sensitivity to disturbance, and resilience of the fauna. J Paleolimnol 30:273–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heiri O, Lotter AF (2005) Holocene and Lateglacial summer temperature reconstruction in the Swiss Alps based on fossil assemblages of aquatic organisms: a review. Boreas 34:506–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Heiri O, Birks HJB, Brooks SJ, Velle G, Willassen E (2003) Effects of within-lake variability of fossil assemblages on quantitative chironomid-inferred temperature reconstruction. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 199:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heynen C (1988) Zur Biologie eines Buchenwaldbodens. 11. Die Dipterenlarven. Carolinea 46:115–130Google Scholar
  16. Hövemeyer K (1999) Abundance patterns in terrestrial dipteran communities. Pedobiologia 43:28–43Google Scholar
  17. Ilyashuk EA, Ilyashuk BP, Hammarlund D, Larocque I (2005) Holocene climatic and environmental changes inferred from midge records (Diptera: Chironomidae, Chaoboridae, Ceratopogonidae) at Lake Berkut, southern Kola Peninsula, Russia. Holocene 15:897–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Koinig KA, Shotyk W, Lotter AF, Ohlendorf C, Sturm M (2003) 9000 years of geochemical evolution of lithogenic major and trace elements in the sediments of an alpine lake—the role of climate, vegetation, and land-use history. J Paleolimnol 30:307–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lewandrowski M, Sznyk A, Bednarek A (2004) Biology and morphometry of Lycoriella ingenua (Diptera: Sciaridae). Biol Lett 41:41–50Google Scholar
  20. Lotter AF, Birks HJB (2003) Holocene sediments of Sägistalsee, a small lake at the present day tree-line in the Swiss Alps. J Paleolimnol 30:253–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Madwar S (1937) Biology and morphology of the immature stages of Mycetophilidae (Diptera, Nematocera). Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 227:1–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Menzel F, Mohrig W (1999) Revision der paläarktischen Trauermücken (Diptera: Sciaridae). Studia Dipterologica Suppl 6:1–761Google Scholar
  23. Menzel F, Smith JE, Chandler PE (2006) The sciarid fauna of the British Isles (Diptera: Sciaridae), including descriptions of six new species. Zool J Linn Soc 146:1–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nielsen BO, Nielsen LB (2004) Seasonal aspects of sciarid emergence in arable land (Diptera: Sciaridae). Pedobiologia 48:231–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rück A, Walker IR, Hebda R (1998) A paleolimnological study of Tugulnuit Lake, British Columbia, Canada, with special emphasis on river influence as recorded by chironomids in the lake’s sediment. J Paleolimnol 19:63–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rumes B, Eggermont H, Verschuren D (2005) Representation of aquatic invertebrate communities in subfossil death assemblages sampled along a salinity gradient of western Uganda crater lakes. Hydrobiologia 542:297–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Steffan WA (1966) A generic revision of the family Sciaridae (Diptera) of America North of Mexico. Univ Calif Publ Entomol 44:1–77Google Scholar
  28. Sweetman JN, Smol JP (2006) Reconstructing fish populations using Chaoborus (Diptera: Chaoboridae) remains—a review. Quaternary Sci Rev 25:2013–2023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Troger H, Janetschek H, Meyer E, Schatz W (1994) Abundance of emerging insects (Diptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera) in the central high Alps (Tirol, Ötztal). Entomol Gen 18:241–260Google Scholar
  30. Tronstad LM, Tronstad BP, Benke AC (2005a) Invertebrate responses to decreasing water levels in a subtropical river floodplain wetland. Wetlands 25:583–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tronstad LM, Tronstad BP, Benke AC (2005b) Invertebrate seedbanks: rehydration of soil from an unregulated river floodplain in the south-eastern U.S. Freshw Biol 50:646–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Velle G, Larsen J, Eide W, Peglar SM, Birks HJB (2005) Holocene environmental history and climate of Råtåsjøen, a low-alpine lake in south-central Norway. J Paleolimnol 33:129–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Vilkamaa P, Hippa H (2004) The genus Xenosciara gen. n. and the phylogeny of the Sciaridae (Diptera). Zootaxa 699:1–24Google Scholar
  34. Walker IR (2001) Midges: Chironomidae and related Diptera. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments. Zoological indicators, vol 4. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 43–66Google Scholar
  35. Walker IR, Wilson SE, Smol JP (1995) Chironomidae (Diptera): quantitative palaeosalinity indicators for lakes of western Canada. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 52:950–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wiederholm T (ed) (1983) Chironomidae of the Holarctic region. Keys and diagnoses. Part I. Larvae. Entomol Scand Suppl 19:1–457Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Palaeoecology, Laboratory of Palaeobotany and Palynology, Institute of Environmental Biology, Faculty of ScienceUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group, Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.The Natural History CollectionsUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

Personalised recommendations