Author(s): Schmidt O, Scrimgeour CM, Curry JP
Abstract Share this page
Abstract We used natural abundance stable isotope techniques to estimate carbon and nitrogen turnover rates in body tissue and mucus of earthworms. Isotope ratios of carbon (delta(13)C) and nitrogen (delta(15)N) were monitored simultaneously in body tissue and mucus for up to 101 days in feeding or fasting Lumbricus festivus kept in an artificial substrate. When the diet of the earthworms was switched from clover (C(3) plant, legume) to maize (C(4), non-legume), the new dietary delta(13)C signature manifested itself much more rapidly in the mucus than in the body tissue of the animals, causing a delta(13)C shift of about 4 per thousand in mucus and 1 per thousand in tissue after 13.5 days. Turnover of earthworm body tissue carbon, unlike that of mucus carbon, was described adequately by an exponential, single-pool model. Nitrogen turnover could not be assessed because the delta(15)N difference between sources was too small. Fasting for 56 days did not result in the expected whole-body (15)N or (13)C enrichment, but it caused a significant decrease in mucus and tissue C:N ratios and in the ratio (mucus C:N ratio):(tissue C:N ratio). We conclude that the separate analysis of body tissue and mucus has great potential for studying the ecophysiology, feeding ecology and role in elemental cycling of earthworms and other invertebrates.
This article was published in Oecologia
and referenced in Journal of Ecosystem & Ecography