Dietary composition and fatty acid content of giant salmonflies (Pteronarcys californica) in two Rocky Mountain rivers

Ecosphere Naturalist
By: , and 



Many aquatic invertebrates are declining or facing extinction from stressors that compromise physiology, resource consumption, reproduction, and phenology. However, the influence of these common stressors specifically on consumer–resource interactions for aquatic invertebrate consumers is only beginning to be understood. We conducted a field study to investigate Pteronarcys californica (i.e., the “giant salmonfly”), a large-bodied insect that is ecologically and culturally significant to rivers throughout the western United States. We sampled gut contents and polyunsaturated fatty acid composition of salmonflies to compare resource consumption across river (Madison or Gallatin, Montana), sex (male or female), and habitat (rock or woody debris). We found that allochthonous detritus comprised the majority of salmonfly diets in the Gallatin and Madison Rivers, making up 68% of the gut contents on average, followed by amorphous detritus, diatoms, and filamentous algae. Diets showed little variation across river, sex, or length. Minor differences in diets were detected by habitat type, with a higher proportion of diatoms in the diets of salmonflies collected from rocky habitat compared to woody debris. Fatty acid composition generally supported the results of gut content analysis but highlighted the importance of primary producers. The presence of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and alpha linolenic acid (18:3n-3) indicated consumption of diatoms and filamentous green algae, respectively. Our research underscores the importance of a healthy riparian zone that provides allochthonous detritus for invertebrate nutrition as well as the role of algae as an important source of fatty acids.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Dietary composition and fatty acid content of giant salmonflies (Pteronarcys californica) in two Rocky Mountain rivers
Series title Ecosphere Naturalist
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.3904
Volume 13
Issue 1
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center, Fort Collins Science Center
Description e3904, 10 p.
Country United States
State Montana
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