Aspects of the ecology of the earthworm Eisenia lucens (Waga 1857) studied in the field and in laboratory culture

Kostecka, Joanna, Butt, Kevin Richard orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0886-7795, Mazur-Pączka, Anna, Pączka, Grzegorz, Garczyńska, Mariola and Podolak, Agnieszka (2019) Aspects of the ecology of the earthworm Eisenia lucens (Waga 1857) studied in the field and in laboratory culture. Environmental Science and Pollution Research International . pp. 1-7. ISSN 0944-1344

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This work relates data from field sampling of Eisenia lucens and from laboratory-based culture. Field sampling used soil sorting and vermifuge extraction and took place in beech-dominated forests of southwest Poland. Initial work derived population estimates from four sub-communities of the forest looking for seasonal dynamics and later work employed targeted sampling in summer within rotting wood to obtain live specimens for laboratory culture. A preliminary examination within and below rotten wood during winter was also undertaken. In the laboratory, clitellate earthworms were kept at 20 °C, the substrate changed every 6 months, and the population examined. Cocoons were incubated individually at 15 °C, with number of hatchlings per cocoon and the mass of each determined. Hatchlings were grown at 15 °C in field-collected wood and compared with growth in a 1:1 volume ratio of wood and horse manure. Further hatchlings were fed with horse manure only (at 10 °C) and after 19 weeks, half were transferred to 15 °C. In the field, mature individuals varied significantly (p < 0.01) in biomass between 2 sampling sites where found, with an overall mean density across sites of 4.14 ± 3.53 m with a mean biomass of 2.21 ± 1.93 g m . Numbers in soil varied over the sampling period, with a suggestion that this species moves from mineral soil to organic-rich dead wood as conditions permit. In summer, all life stages were recovered from rotting wood above the mineral soil. Sampling in winter found cocoons in rotting wood below snow. These hatched rapidly (within 2 weeks) when taken to the laboratory. Laboratory culture allowed maintenance of a population for 2 years. Mean cocoon mass was 50.6 mg with a mean of 2.9 hatchlings per cocoon and hatchling mass was inversely proportional to number per cocoon. Growth with 50% horse manure was significantly greater (p < 0.001) than with wood. Increased temperature from 10 to 15 °C brought more significantly (p < 0.05) rapid growth. To culture this species through its life cycle, a natural substrate is needed, but then it is necessary to acclimate the animals to something more easily obtainable. More work is needed from field sampling to fully understand the seasonal dynamics of this species, which utilises different parts of the soil profile throughout the year.

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