Salinity effects on the coexistence of cryptic species: a case study on marine nematodes

N. De Meester, S. Derycke, D. Bonte, T. Moens

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    The coexistence of four cryptic species of Rhabditis (Pellioditis) marina (Nematoda: Rhabditidae) at small geographical scale challenges ecological competition theory and was therefore studied in the laboratory at two different salinities, where their performance in combined cultures was compared with that in monospecies cultures. We found that three of the four cryptic species were able to coexist, but that interspecific interactions (competition and facilitation) were common. Salinity had an effect on these interactions, with a shift from contest to scramble competition. This shift may result from an increased population development of two of the four species at the lower salinity in the monospecific cultures. This experiment demonstrates that abiotic conditions may play an important role in achieving coexistence between cryptic species and can alter the interspecific interactions between them.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalMarine Biology
    Issue number12
    Pages (from-to)2717-2726
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Dec-2011

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