Pre-emergence growth and development in the arctic midge Trichotanypus alaskensis Brundin Pre-emergence growth and development in Trichotanypus alaskensis

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Malcolm G. Butler *
Shane D. Braegelman
(*) Corresponding Author:
Malcolm G. Butler |


Developing at low mean temperatures, arctic chironomids often have prolonged larval growth yet adult emergence is typically a brief and highly synchronous event. How does a midge population achieve synchronous emergence? Under the Absolute Spring Species Hypothesis (AbSS), adult eclosion by early-emerging species may be synchronized by overwintering as fully mature larvae. Such prepupal larvae would neither feed nor grow after spring thaw, only pupate and emerge. The podonomine Trichotanypus alaskensis Brundin is an abundant midge in tundra ponds on Alaska’s Arctic Coastal Plain, and one of the earliest-emerging species in this chironomid-dominated insect community. T. alaskensis is univoltine in these arctic ponds, with most emergence from any one pond occurring within less than a one-week span during late June, typically about three weeks after pond thaw. We evaluated T. alaskensis for conformity to the AbSS model by documenting the overwintering state of this species in a tundra pond near Barrow, Alaska, then monitoring larval growth and development of the population from spring thaw to pupation. Most T. alaskensis were immature instar IV larvae when collected in late September of both 2010 and 2011, with 10-30% still in late instar III. Immediately after pond thaw in 2011, all collected larvae had imaginal disc primordia showing early stages of instar IV development. Within the first two weeks following pond thaw, most larvae had doubled their dry mass and developed into mature (prepupal) final-instar larvae. Highly synchronized emergence by T.  alaskensis is not a consequence of a population overwintering as fully-mature larvae, as per the Absolute Spring Species Hypothesis. Rather, larvae in a given tundra pond appear to develop synchronously throughout the life cycle, including a period of substantial growth and rapid prepupal development between spring thaw and early-summer emergence.

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