Arthropod Interactions in an Antarctic Terrestrial Community

  • W. Block


A functional analysis of a low-diversity terrestrial arthropod community in the maritime Antarctic is made, especially in relation to the flux of energy and predation. Although net primary production of the main plants — mosses is 392–409 g m2 yr−1 (dw), most arthropods feed on epiphytic algae, micro-flora and detritus. Invertebrates other than Protozoa contribute < 1% to total heterotroph respiration. Invertebrate carnivores utilize very little of primary consumer production (< 0.5%). The abundant collembolan herbivore Cryptopygus antarcticus alters its energy budget depending on food quality and temperature, but its grazing may have a significant impact only at algal dominated sites. The single arthropod predator Gamasellus racovitzai feeds on three species of arthropod, the principal one during summer being C. antarcticus, which forms the greatest proportion of available prey. It is non-selective with regard to prey when feeding during summer, and does not feed extensively in winter. It is unlikely that such a predator ever has a shortage of food in bryophyte habitats. It is concluded that: the principal grazing chain in such communities is ectothermic, being based entirely on invertebrates and regulated by algae and micro-flora production; Antarctic and temperate terrestrial systems differ in the pathways of energy flux with contrasting ecological efficiencies for both herbivores and carnivores; on current evidence the functional position of invertebrate predators such as G. racovitzai appears anomalous; and, several correlates of adversity or A-selection are found in Antarctic communities, which may preclude their recovery from perturbations.


Arthropod Community Primary Consumer Invertebrate Predator Dead Organic Matter South Orkney Island 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Block
    • 1
  1. 1.British Antarctic SurveyNERCCambridgeUK

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