GRIGOROPOULOU, Niki, Butt, Kevin R. and Lowe, Christopher N.
Effects of adult Lumbricus terrestris on cocoons and hatchlings in Evans’ boxes.
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pedobi.2007.07.001
The basic ecology of well-researched earthworm species, such as Lumbricus terrestris, remains relatively unknown. In order to contribute to the limited body of knowledge, the present work aimed to investigate if specific behaviours could be detected between an adult and the cocoons it produced by comparison with a non-parental adult and cocoons. Modified Evans’ boxes (0.8×0.2×0.008 m) with recently mated adults allowed observation of their habits under what was essentially a 2-D system. Experimental manipulation (at 81 days) involved four treatments: (1) L. terrestris removal (LtRm); (2) L. terrestris replacement (LtRp), where individuals were replaced by others; (3) control, with no manipulation and (4) L. terrestris removal control (CLtRm) where individuals were removed and then reintroduced in the same box, to account for any effects of the removal method. Burrowing patterns of adults and later, hatchlings, were recorded throughout the duration of the experiment (191 days). Cocoon production across treatments did not differ significantly (p>0.05) and averaged 26±6.4 cocoons worm−1 over a 26 week period. In the LtRm treatment mean cocoon production was 12.6±2.7 cocoons worm−1 over 11 weeks. Forty one percent of cocoons were deposited in the upper 0.05 m of the soil profile. Cocoons below that depth were found deposited in side burrows (1–4 cm in length) and were coated with earthworm casts. Hatchling number and survival rate did not differ significantly across treatments (p>0.05) with means±s.d. of 2±2.2 and 62±29%, respectively. Hatchling mass in the LtRm treatment (0.4±0.38 g), was found to be significantly greater (p<0.01) than that of all other treatments (0.12±0.12 g). In this experimental set up, the presence of parental earthworms and other con-specifics had no significant effect on cocoon viability and hatchling survival, however, results indicated a negative effect of adult presence on hatchling growth.
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