2008 Student Research Conference:
21st Annual Student Research Conference

Life in Compact Clay: The Burrowing Behavior of Aquatic Fly Larvae (Chironomidae: Axarus)
Nicholas A. Mueth
Dr. George L. Shinn, Faculty Mentor

The worm-like larvae of the genus Axarus live in compact clay outcroppings on the bottom of the Chariton River in northeastern Missouri. They live head down in elaborate burrows that they excavate by using their jaws to remove the hard substrate. The burrows have a distinctive keyhole shape when viewed from the surface, and commonly exceed 5cm in depth. Undulating body movements create ventilation currents. The worms line their burrows with a silky secretion; this may play a role in trapping the minute organic particles upon which the worms feed. Hole-riddled clay is a habitat for generations of Axarus larvae, provides opportunistic dwelling-places for many other aquatic invertebrates, and may accelerate the natural erosion of alternating layers of clay and limestone that make up the riverbed.

Keywords: aquatic, chironomid, axarus, burrow, keyhole, Chariton, river

Topic(s):Biology

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 30-1
Location: VH 1432
Time: 1:15

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