Overview

Comprehensive Description

The Chironomidae is a large and diverse family of flies. They are commonly known as "non-biting midges." There are over 20,000 species known world-wide, including 2,000 in the Nearctic. Adult midges are relatively small (1-20 mm long), with narrow bodies and long legs. They are often confused with mosquitos, but no members of this family are blood-feeders (hence the "non-biting" part of the common name). Adults, if they feed at all, feed on nectar or similar substances. Midge larvae are nearly all aquatic or sub-aquatic, and are a very important part of many freshwater ecosystems. Both in numbers and in diversity, they are often the largest group of primary consumers in these systems. Species of Chironomidae can be found in an enormous variety of aquatic habitats, from brackish estuaries to pools in tree-holes, and from low-oxygen lake sediments to fast-flowing mountain streams.

  • McCafferty, W. 1983. Aquatic Entomology: The Fishermen's and Ecologists' Illustrated Guide to Insect and Their Relatives. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc..
  • Coffman, W., L. Ferrington Jr.. 1996. Chironomidae. Pp. 591-754 in R Merritt, K Cummins, eds. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America. Dubuque, Iowa, USA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
  • Foote, B. 1987. Chironomidae (Chironomoidea). Pp. 762-764 in F Stehr, ed. Immature Insects, Vol. 2. Dubuque, Iowa, USA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
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Distribution

Species of chironomid midges are found in moist or wet habitats in all major landmasses of the world, including Antarctica, and most islands.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); antarctica (Native ); oceanic islands (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

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Physical Description

Morphology

Adults are small (1-20 mm long, most less than 10 mm), slim, long-legged flies. They resemble, and are often confused with, mosquitoes (Culicidae), but unlike mosquitoes, they do not bite, and have no scales on their wings. Many species rest on their hind two pairs of legs, and hold their forelegs out in front of them. In most species, adult males have plumose antennae that are much larger than the females (these are probably used to locate females). Most species are dark-colored, usually brown or black.

Larvae are elongate and cylindrical, with distinct segmentation and a hard sclerotized head capsule that cannot be retracted into the body. They have no true legs, but do have a pair of unjointed "prolegs" on the first segment of the thorax. The presences of this pair of prolegs, the absence of true legs, and the structure of the head are good distinguishing marks for identifying larvae in the Chironomidae. Color varies widely among larvae, most are tan or brown, but some are whitish, some are green. Larvae of a number of species in the subfamily Chironominae have the hemoglobin in their circulatory fluid, which helps them survive in low-oxygen habitats. These larvae are pinkish or red when alive, and are often called "blood midges."

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes shaped differently

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Ecology

Habitat

Midge larvae occur in all kinds of benthic freshwater habitats, including the bottoms of streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and temporary pools, also wetlands such as marshes and swamps. Some breed in isolated damp habitats such as tree-holes, pitcher plants, patches of moist soil, even dung pats. The "blood midges" or "bloodworms" are species of midges with hemoglobin in their hemolymph, which allows them to survive in low-oxygen (and often heavily-polluted) habitats. Adults rarely disperse far from the larval habitat.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; polar ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; temporary pools; brackish water

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: riparian ; estuarine ; intertidal or littoral

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Depth range based on 10 specimens in 2 taxa.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0.9 - 2.5

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0.9 - 2.5
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Trophic Strategy

The many thousands of chironomid species have many different feeding habits. Most species feed on small particles of organic debris, but the size of particles varies, some shred bits of dead wood and leaves, some gather smaller particles, some even filter tiny particles suspended in the water. Some of these detritivores also collect algae cells, and some species are herbivores, specialize in feeding on algae. Other herbivores are "miners" tunneling in larger vascular plants. There are some fungivore chironomids as well, eating spores and grazing on hyphae. A few species are simple predators, often attacking other chironomid species.

Primary Diet: detritivore

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Associations

Chironomids are the most diverse and abundant macroinvertebrates in most of the aquatic ecosystems they inhabit (and they inhabit most aquatic ecosystems). Most natural ponds, lakes and streams are home to 50-100 different species of non-biting midges. Collectively, they play a vital role in freshwater ecosystems as primary consumers. They harvest an enormous amount of energy from detritus and are one of the major supports for animal communities in these systems.

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Non-biting midges are so abundant in so many freshwater habitats that practically every kind of predator in these habitats feeds on them at some stage of their life cycle. Midges try to avoid predation by limiting their activity during daylight, and larvae and pupae take refuge in tunnels that they build in sediment. Many species are cryptically colored.

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / pathogen
Entomophthora culicis infects live adult of Chironomidae

Animal / carrion / dead animal feeder
Rhizidium mycophilum feeds on dead dead, shed exuvia of larva of Chironomidae

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Known predators

Chironomidae is prey of:
Catostomus
Gasterosteus
Cottus
Prosopium
Salvelinus
Cichlidae
Barbus innocens
Serranochromis robustus
Anisopteridae
Zygopteridae
Oreochromis shiranus
Oreochromis saka
Haplochromis kiwinge
Haplochromis guentheri
Haplochromis fenestratus
Mastacembelus shiranus
Bathyclarias worthingtoni
Labidochromis vellicans
Labidochromis caeruleus
Haplochromis euchilus
Haplochromis ornatus
Pseudotropheus fuscoides
Hydropsychidae
Neoperla spio
Cynotilapia afra
Hirudinea
Barilius microcephalus
Melanochromis melanopterus
Haplochromis johnstoni
Haplochromis dimidiatus
Lethrinops brevis
Synodontis zambesensis
Lethrinops
Lethriops furcifer
Haplocrhomis mola
Barbus johnstoni
Haplochromis chrysonotus
Utricularia
Odonata
Hemiptera
Coleoptera
Chaoborus
Nematocera imagines
Araneae
Plectrophenax nivalis
Calidris maritima
Chloroperla
Hydropsyche
Oreonectes
Deronectes
Polycentropus
Perlodes
roach
Alburnus alburnus
Oecetis
Sialis
Diptera
Gomphus
Aythya affinis
Actinopterygii
Aythya fuligula
Insecta
Salmonidae
Percidae
Molanna
Coregonus lavaretus
Rutilus rutilus
Gymnocephalus cernus
Perca fluviatilis
Hymenophysa curta
Gasterosteus aculeatus
Esocidae
bleak
Geococcyx californianus
Haplochromis angustifrons
Saprinus
Platysoma lecontei
Salvelinus fontinalis
Perlodidae
Rhyacophila acropedes
Rhyacophila valuma
Partnuniella thermalis
Thermacarus nevadensis
Tachytrechus angustipennis
Aves
Arachnida
Tilapia
Perla carlukiana
Dinocras cephalotes
Rhyacophila obliterata
Hydropsyche instabilis
Oreodytes rivalis
Oreodytes septentrionalis
Plectrocnemia conspersa
Rhinichthys osculus
Pacifastacus gambelli
Chiroptera
Perla cephalotes
Rhyacophila dorsalis
Polycentropus flavomaculatus
Gammarus pulex
Herpobdella atomaria
Cottus bairdii
Eucalia inconstans
Phryganeidae
Perca flavescens
Catostomus commersoni
Herpodbella octoculata
Ephemerella ignita
Stenophylax stellatus
Simulium
Salmo salar
Phoxinus phoxinus
Polycelis tenuis
Argyroneta aquatica
Acanthocyclops vernalis
Enallagma cyathigerum
Lestes sponsa
Aeshna juncea
Sympetrum scoticum
Notonecta glauca
Callicorixa praeusta
Hydroporus erythrocephalus
Agabus sturmii
Agabus bipustulatus
Ilybius fulginosus
Holocentropus picicornis
Limnephilus marmoratus
Procladius sagittalis
Tringa totanus
Pholis gunnellus
Pomatoschistus minutus
Pomatoschistus microps
Platichthys flesus

Based on studies in:
USA: Maine (Lake or pond)
Malawi (River)
Malawi, Lake Nyasa (Lake or pond)
Africa, Crocodile Creek, Lake Nyasa (Lake or pond)
USA: Iowa, Mississippi River (River)
Russia (Agricultural)
Uganda, Lake George (Lake or pond)
Norway: Spitsbergen (Tundra)
Wales, River Rheidol (River)
Wales, Dee River (River)
Finland (Lake or pond, Littoral)
England, River Thames (River)
England, River Cam (River)
Scotland (Estuarine)
UK: Yorkshire, Aire, Nidd & Wharfe Rivers (River)
Scotland, Loch Leven (Lake or pond)
USA: North Carolina (Forest, Plant substrate)
USA: Colorado (River)
Canada: Ontario, Mad River (River)
Canada: Ontario (River)
USA (Temporary pool)
Wales, River Clydach (River)
USA: Idaho-Utah, Deep Creek (River)
England, Skipwith Pond (Lake or pond)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • G. Fryer, The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa, Proc. London Zool. Soc. 132:153-229, from p. 219 (1959).
  • G. Fryer, The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa, Proc. London Zool. Soc. 132:153-281, from p. 218 (1959).
  • N. N. Smirnov, Food cycles in sphagnous bogs, Hydrobiologia 17:175-182, from p. 179 (1961).
  • V. S. Summerhayes and C. S. Elton, Further contributions to the ecology of Spitzbergen, J. Ecol. 16:193-268, from p. 211 (1928).
  • V. S. Summerhayes and C. S. Elton, Further contributions to the ecology of Spitzbergen, J. Ecol. 16:193-268, from p. 217 (1928).
  • J. R. E. Jones, A further ecological study of the river Rheidol: the food of the common insects of the main-stream, J. Anim. Ecol. 19:159-174, from p. 172 (1950).
  • K. H. Mann, R. H. Britton, A. Kowalczewski, T. J. Lack, C. P. Mathews and I. McDonald, Productivity and energy flow at all trophic levels in the River Thames, England. In: Productivity Problems of Freshwaters, Z. Kajak and A. Hillbricht-Ilkowska, Eds. (P
  • C. A. Carlson, Summer bottom fauna of the Mississippi River, above Dam 19, Keokuk, Iowa, Ecology 49(1):162-168, from p. 167 (1968).
  • N. C. Morgan and D. S. McLusky, A summary of the Loch Leven IBP results in relation to lake management and future research, Proc. R. Soc. Edinburgh Series B 74:407-416, from p. 408 (1972).
  • K. Aulio, K. Jumppanen, H. Molsa, J. Nevalainen, M. Rajasilta, I. Vuorinen, Litoraalin merkitys Pyhajarven kalatuotannolle, Sakylan Pyhajarven Tila Ja Biologinen Tuotanto (Lounais-Suomen Vesiensuojeluyhdistys R. Y., Turku, Finland, 1981) 47:173-176.
  • M. E. Blindloss, A. V. Holden, A. E. Bailey-Watts and I. R. Smith, Phytoplankton production, chemical and physical conditions in Loch Leven. Productivity Problems of Freshwaters (Eds. Z. Kajak and A. Hillbricht-Ilkowska), Polish Scientific Publishers, War
  • K. H. Mann, Case history: The River Thames. In: River Ecology and Man (R. T. Oglesby, C. A. Carlson, J. A. McCann, Eds.), Academic Press, New York and London, pp. 215-232 (1972), from p. 224.
  • D. J. W. Moriarty, J. P. E. C. Darlington, I. G. Dunn, C. M. Moriarty and M. P. Tevlin, Feeding and grazing in Lake George, Uganda, Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 184:299-319 (1973).
  • G. Fryer, 1957. The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa with special reference to the fishes, and a discussion of the evolution of a group of rock-frequenting Cichlidae. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 132:153-281, f
  • J. R. E. Jones, 1949. A further ecological study of calcareous streams in the "Black Mountain" district of South Wales. J. Anim. Ecol. 18:142-159, from pp. 154-55, 157.
  • D. G. Koslucher and G. W. Minshall, 1973. Food habits of some benthic invertebrates in a northern cool-desert stream (Deep Creek, Curlew Valley, Idaho-Utah). Trans. Amer. Micros. Soc. 92:441-452, from pp. 446-50.
  • E. Percival and H. Whitehead, 1929. A quantitative study of the fauna of some types of stream-bed. J. Ecol. 17:282-314, from p. 311 & overleaf.
  • W. E. Ricker, 1934. An ecological classification of certain Ontario streams. Univ. Toronto Studies, Biol. Serv. 37, Publ. Ontario Fish. Res. Lab. 49:7-114, from pp. 78, 89.
  • R. M. Badcock, 1949. Studies in stream life in tributaries of the Welsh Dee. J. Anim. Ecol. 18:193-208, from pp. 202-206 and Price, P. W., 1984, Insect Ecology, 2nd ed., New York: John Wiley, p. 23
  • N. C. Collins, R. Mitchell and R. G. Wiegert, 1976. Functional analysis of a thermal spring ecosystem, with an evaluation of the role of consumers. Ecology 57:1221-1232, from p. 1222.
  • W. E. Ricker, 1934. An ecological classification of certain Ontario streams. Univ. Toronto Studies, Biol. Serv. 37, Publ. Ontario Fish. Res. Lab. 49:7-114, from pp. 105-106.
  • H. E. Savely, 1939. Ecological relations of certain animals in dead pine and oak logs. Ecol. Monogr. 9:321-385, from pp. 335, 353-56, 377-85.
  • J. L. Brooks and E. S. Deevey, New England. In: Limnology in North America, D. G. Frey, Ed. (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1963), pp. 117-162, from p. 143.
  • G. Fryer, The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa, Proc. London Zool. Soc. 132:153-281, from p. 217 (1959).
  • P. H. T. Hartley, Food and feeding relationships in a community of fresh-water fishes, J. Anim. Ecol. 17(1):1-14, from p. 12 (1948).
  • J. D. Allan, 1982. The effects of reduction in trout density on the invertebrate community of a mountain stream. Ecology 63:1444-1455, from p. 1452.
  • Warren PH (1989) Spatial and temporal variation in the structure of a freshwater food web. Oikos 55:299–311
  • Hall SJ, Raffaelli D (1991) Food-web patterns: lessons from a species-rich web. J Anim Ecol 60:823–842
  • Huxham M, Beany S, Raffaelli D (1996) Do parasites reduce the chances of triangulation in a real food web? Oikos 76:284–300
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Known prey organisms

Chironomidae preys on:
ooze
bacteria
algae
detritus
Aufwuchs
lichens
Bryophyta
phanerogams
green algae
stem tissue
fragmented leaf
Bacillariophyceae
phytoplankton
plant fragments
seston
decomposer
fungi
Cyanobacteria
leaf fragments
Ulothrix
plant tissue
POM

Based on studies in:
USA: Maine (Lake or pond)
Scotland (Lake or pond)
Malawi (River)
Malawi, Lake Nyasa (Lake or pond)
Russia (Agricultural)
Norway: Spitsbergen (Agricultural)
England, River Thames (River)
Scotland, Loch Leven (Lake or pond)
Africa, Crocodile Creek, Lake Nyasa (Lake or pond)
UK: Yorkshire, Aire, Nidd & Wharfe Rivers (River)
Wales, Dee River (River)
Wales, River Rheidol (River)
USA: Iowa, Mississippi River (River)
Finland (Lake or pond, Littoral)
Uganda, Lake George (Lake or pond)
Wales, River Clydach (River)
USA: Idaho-Utah, Deep Creek (River)
England, Skipwith Pond (Lake or pond)
England, River Cam (River)
USA: North Carolina (Forest, Plant substrate)
USA (Temporary pool)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • G. Fryer, The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa, Proc. London Zool. Soc. 132:153-229, from p. 219 (1959).
  • G. Fryer, The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa, Proc. London Zool. Soc. 132:153-281, from p. 218 (1959).
  • N. N. Smirnov, Food cycles in sphagnous bogs, Hydrobiologia 17:175-182, from p. 179 (1961).
  • V. S. Summerhayes and C. S. Elton, Further contributions to the ecology of Spitzbergen, J. Ecol. 16:193-268, from p. 211 (1928).
  • V. S. Summerhayes and C. S. Elton, Further contributions to the ecology of Spitzbergen, J. Ecol. 16:193-268, from p. 217 (1928).
  • J. R. E. Jones, A further ecological study of the river Rheidol: the food of the common insects of the main-stream, J. Anim. Ecol. 19:159-174, from p. 172 (1950).
  • K. H. Mann, R. H. Britton, A. Kowalczewski, T. J. Lack, C. P. Mathews and I. McDonald, Productivity and energy flow at all trophic levels in the River Thames, England. In: Productivity Problems of Freshwaters, Z. Kajak and A. Hillbricht-Ilkowska, Eds. (P
  • C. A. Carlson, Summer bottom fauna of the Mississippi River, above Dam 19, Keokuk, Iowa, Ecology 49(1):162-168, from p. 167 (1968).
  • N. C. Morgan and D. S. McLusky, A summary of the Loch Leven IBP results in relation to lake management and future research, Proc. R. Soc. Edinburgh Series B 74:407-416, from p. 408 (1972).
  • K. Aulio, K. Jumppanen, H. Molsa, J. Nevalainen, M. Rajasilta, I. Vuorinen, Litoraalin merkitys Pyhajarven kalatuotannolle, Sakylan Pyhajarven Tila Ja Biologinen Tuotanto (Lounais-Suomen Vesiensuojeluyhdistys R. Y., Turku, Finland, 1981) 47:173-176.
  • M. E. Blindloss, A. V. Holden, A. E. Bailey-Watts and I. R. Smith, Phytoplankton production, chemical and physical conditions in Loch Leven. Productivity Problems of Freshwaters (Eds. Z. Kajak and A. Hillbricht-Ilkowska), Polish Scientific Publishers, War
  • K. H. Mann, Case history: The River Thames. In: River Ecology and Man (R. T. Oglesby, C. A. Carlson, J. A. McCann, Eds.), Academic Press, New York and London, pp. 215-232 (1972), from p. 224.
  • D. J. W. Moriarty, J. P. E. C. Darlington, I. G. Dunn, C. M. Moriarty and M. P. Tevlin, Feeding and grazing in Lake George, Uganda, Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 184:299-319 (1973).
  • G. Fryer, 1957. The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa with special reference to the fishes, and a discussion of the evolution of a group of rock-frequenting Cichlidae. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 132:153-281, f
  • J. R. E. Jones, 1949. A further ecological study of calcareous streams in the "Black Mountain" district of South Wales. J. Anim. Ecol. 18:142-159, from pp. 154-55, 157.
  • D. G. Koslucher and G. W. Minshall, 1973. Food habits of some benthic invertebrates in a northern cool-desert stream (Deep Creek, Curlew Valley, Idaho-Utah). Trans. Amer. Micros. Soc. 92:441-452, from pp. 446-50.
  • E. Percival and H. Whitehead, 1929. A quantitative study of the fauna of some types of stream-bed. J. Ecol. 17:282-314, from p. 311 & overleaf.
  • R. M. Badcock, 1949. Studies in stream life in tributaries of the Welsh Dee. J. Anim. Ecol. 18:193-208, from pp. 202-206 and Price, P. W., 1984, Insect Ecology, 2nd ed., New York: John Wiley, p. 23
  • N. C. Collins, R. Mitchell and R. G. Wiegert, 1976. Functional analysis of a thermal spring ecosystem, with an evaluation of the role of consumers. Ecology 57:1221-1232, from p. 1222.
  • H. E. Savely, 1939. Ecological relations of certain animals in dead pine and oak logs. Ecol. Monogr. 9:321-385, from pp. 335, 353-56, 377-85.
  • J. L. Brooks and E. S. Deevey, New England. In: Limnology in North America, D. G. Frey, Ed. (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1963), pp. 117-162, from p. 143.
  • G. Fryer, The trophic interrelationships and ecology of some littoral communities of Lake Nyasa, Proc. London Zool. Soc. 132:153-281, from p. 217 (1959).
  • P. H. T. Hartley, Food and feeding relationships in a community of fresh-water fishes, J. Anim. Ecol. 17(1):1-14, from p. 12 (1948).
  • Warren PH (1989) Spatial and temporal variation in the structure of a freshwater food web. Oikos 55:299–311
  • Hall SJ, Raffaelli D (1991) Food-web patterns: lessons from a species-rich web. J Anim Ecol 60:823–842
  • Huxham M, Beany S, Raffaelli D (1996) Do parasites reduce the chances of triangulation in a real food web? Oikos 76:284–300
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Like all flies, the Chironomidae are holometabolous, and undergo metamorphosis in their life cycle. Adult females lay eggs in aquatic habitats. The larvae that hatch from these are often planktonic in their first instar, floating in the water column and feeding on microscopic particles in the water. After their first molt, larvae of most species descend to the bottom and remain benthic through the rest of the larval stage (usually four instars). The larvae transforms into a pupa, which often stays within a shelter or cocoon while it transforms into an adult. When it's time to emerge, the pupa swims to the surface, and the adult pulls itself out of its old skin.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan varies greatly between and within species in the Chironomidae. Individual growth and development rates are strongly influenced by temperature and other environmental factors. Many temperate species live for a year, surviving the winter as larvae. Some species are known to complete entire life-cycles in a few weeks, if temperatures are warm and food is abundant.

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Reproduction

Adult non-biting midges often form mating swarms, either in the air near oviposition sites, or "skating" on the surface of water. These swarms are composed mostly of males, and may serve to attract females.

In most species, eggs are laid in gelatinous masses on the water surface or on emergent vegetation. In some species, females lay their eggs in or under the water. Adult chironomids usually only live for a few days or weeks, and so reproduction is a single concerted effort. Most species breed seasonally. A very few species are reported to be parthenogenic, most have male and female adults

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); parthenogenic ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

No male investment. Female investment is in provisioning eggs and producing a protective gel mass for them.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning)

  • McCafferty, W. 1983. Aquatic Entomology: The Fishermen's and Ecologists' Illustrated Guide to Insect and Their Relatives. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc..
  • Coffman, W., L. Ferrington Jr.. 1996. Chironomidae. Pp. 591-754 in R Merritt, K Cummins, eds. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America. Dubuque, Iowa, USA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
  • Foote, B. 1987. Chironomidae (Chironomoidea). Pp. 762-764 in F Stehr, ed. Immature Insects, Vol. 2. Dubuque, Iowa, USA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:111117
Specimens with Sequences:106771
Specimens with Barcodes:104451
Species:1309
Species With Barcodes:1220
Public Records:35981
Public Species:610
Public BINs:2259
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Chironomidae

Chironomidae (informally known as chironomids or nonbiting midges) are a family of nematoceran flies with a global distribution. They are closely related to the Ceratopogonidae, Simuliidae, and Thaumaleidae. Many species superficially resemble mosquitoes, but they lack the wing scales and elongated mouthparts of the Culicidae.

Common names and biodiversity[edit]

This is a large taxon of insects; some estimates of the species numbers suggest well over 10000 world-wide.[1] Males are easily recognized by their plumose antennae. Adults are known by a variety of vague and inconsistent common names, largely by confusion with other insects. For example, chironomids are known as "lake flies" in parts of Canada and Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin, but "bay flies" in the areas near the bay of Green Bay, Wisconsin. They are called "sand flies", "muckleheads",[2] or "muffleheads"[3] in various regions of the USA Great Lakes area. They have been called "blind mosquitoes" or "chizzywinks" in Florida, in northern Ohio, USA, and by Canadian soldiers.[4] However, they are not mosquitoes of any sort, and the term "sandflies" generally refers to various species of biting flies unrelated to the Chironomidae.

The group includes Belgica antarctica, the largest terrestrial animal of Antarctica.

The biodiversity of Chironomidae often goes unnoticed because they are notoriously difficult to identify and ecologists usually record them by species groups. Each morphologically distinct group comprises a number of morphologically identical (sibling) species that can only be identified by rearing adult males or by cytogenetic analysis of the polytene chromosomes. Polytene chromosomes were originally observed in the larval salivary glands of Chironomus midges by Balbiani in 1881. They form through repeated rounds of DNA replication without cell division, resulting in characteristic light and dark banding patterns which can be used to identify inversions and deletions which allow species identification.

Behavior and description[edit]

Larval stages of Chironomidae can be found in almost any aquatic or semiaquatic habitat, including treeholes, bromeliads, rotting vegetation, soil, and in sewage and artificial containers. They form an important fraction of the macro zoobenthos of most freshwater ecosystems. They are often associated with degraded or low biodiversity ecosystems because some species have adapted to virtually anoxic conditions and are dominant in polluted waters. Larvae of some species are bright red in color due to a hemoglobin analog; these are often known as "bloodworms".[5] Their ability to capture oxygen is further increased by their making undulating movements.[6]

Many reference sources in the past century or so have repeated the assertion that Chironomidae do not feed as adults, but an increasing body of evidence contradicts this view. Adults of many species do in fact feed. The natural foods reported include fresh fly dropping, nectar, pollen and honeydew, and various sugar-rich materials.[1]

The question whether feeding is of practical importance has by now been clearly settled for some Chironomus species, at least; specimens that had fed on sucrose flew far longer than starved specimens, and starved females longer than starved males, which suggested they had eclosed with larger reserves of energy than the males. Some authors suggest the females and males apply the resources obtained in feeding differently. Males expend the extra energy on flight, while females use their food resources to achieve longer lifespans. The respective strategies should be compatible with maximal probability of successful mating and reproduction in those species that do not mate immediately after eclosion, and in particular in species that have more than one egg mass maturing, the less developed masses being oviposited after a delay. Such variables also would be relevant to species that exploit wind for dispersal, laying eggs at intervals. Chironomids that feed on nectar or pollen may well be of importance as pollinators, but current evidence on such points is largely anecdotal. However, the content of protein and other nutrients in pollen, in comparison to nectar, might well contribute to the females' reproductive capacities.[1]

Adults can be pests when they emerge in large numbers. They can damage paint, brick, and other surfaces with their droppings. When large numbers of adults die they can build up into malodorous piles. They can provoke allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.[7]

Ecology[edit]

Larvae and pupae are important food items for fish, such as trout, Banded killifish, and sticklebacks, and for other aquatic organisms. An amphibian that eats them is the rough-skinned newt.[8] Many aquatic insects, such as various predatory hemipterans in the families Nepidae, Notonectidae and Corixidae eat Chironomidae in their aquatic phases. So do predatory water beetles in families such as Dytiscidae and Hydrophilidae. Fly anglers design and tie imitators to catch trout. The flying midges are eaten by fish and insectivorous birds, such as swallows and martins. They also are preyed on by bats and flying predatory insects, such as Odonata and dance flies.

Chironomidae are important as indicator organisms, i.e., the presence, absence, or quantities of various species in a body of water can indicate whether pollutants are present. Also, their fossils are widely used by palaeolimnologists as indicators of past environmental changes, including past climatic variability.[9]

Anhydrobiosis and stress resistance[edit]

Anhydrobiosis is the ability of an organism to survive in the dry state. Anhydrobiotic larvae of the African chironomid Polypedilum vanderplanki can withstand prolonged complete desiccation (reviewed by Cornette and Kikawada[10]). These larvae can also withstand other external stresses including ionizing radiation.[11] The effects of anhydrobiosis, gamma ray and heavy-ion irradiation on the nuclear DNA and gene expression of these larvae were studied by Gusev et al.[11] They found that larval DNA becomes severely fragmented both upon anhydrobiosis and irradiation, and that these breaks are later repaired during rehydration or upon recovery from irradiation. An analysis of gene expression and antioxidant activity suggested the importance of removal of reactive oxygen species as well as the removal of DNA damages by repair enzymes. Expression of genes encoding DNA repair enzymes increased upon entering anhydrobiosis or upon exposure to radiation, and these increases indicated that when DNA damages occurred they were subsequently repaired. In particular, expression of the Rad51 gene was substantially up-regulated following irradiation and during rehydration.[11] The Rad51 protein plays a key role in homologous recombination, a process required for the accurate repair of DNA double-strand breaks.

Subfamilies and genera[edit]

The family is divided into 11 subfamilies: Aphroteniinae, Buchonomyiinae, Chilenomyinae, Chironominae, Diamesinae, Orthocladiinae, Podonominae, Prodiamesinae, Tanypodinae, Telmatogetoninae, Usambaromyiinae.[12][13] Most species belong to Chironominae, Orthocladiinae, and Tanypodinae. Diamesinae, Podonominae, Prodiamesinae, and Telmatogetoninae are medium size subfamilies with tens to hundreds of species. The remaining four subfamilies have fewer than five species each.

Chironomidae sp. female on flower of Euryops sp. damage caused by beetles in family Meloidae
Chironomidae larva, about 1 cm long, the head is right: The magnified tail details are from other images of the same animal.
Chironomidae larva showing the characteristic red color. ~40× magnification. The head is towards the upper left, just out of view

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Armitage, P. D., Cranston, P. S., Pinder, L. C. V. (1995). The Chironomidae: biology and ecology of non-biting midges. London: Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0-412-45260-X. 
  2. ^ "Muckleheads" from Andre's Weather World (Andre Bernier, staff at WJW-TV), June 2, 2007.
  3. ^ "You don't love muffleheads, but Lake Erie does", Sandusky Register, May 29, 2007.
  4. ^ "Chizzywinks are Blind Mosquitos by Dan Culbert of the University of Florida, August 17, 2005
  5. ^ W.P. Coffman and L.C. Ferrington, Jr. 1996. Chironomidae. pp. 635-754. In: R.W. Merritt and K.W. Cummins, eds. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
  6. ^ Int Panis, L; Goddeeris, B.; Verheyen, R (1996). "On the relationship between vertical microdistribution and adaptations to oxygen stress in littoral Chironomidae (Diptera)". Hydrobiologia 318: 61–67. doi:10.1007/BF00014132. 
  7. ^ A. Ali. 1991. Perspectives on management of pestiferous Chironomidae (Diptera), an emerging global problem. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 7: 260-281.
  8. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) Rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa), Globaltwitcher, ed. Nicklas Stromberg [1]
  9. ^ Walker, I. R. 2001. Midges: Chironomidae and related Diptera. pp. 43-66, In: J. P. Smol, H. J. B. Birks, and W. M. Last (eds). Tracking Environmental Change Using Lake Sediments. Volume 4. Zoological Indicators. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
  10. ^ Cornette R, Kikawada T (June 2011). "The induction of anhydrobiosis in the sleeping chironomid: current status of our knowledge". IUBMB Life 63 (6): 419–29. doi:10.1002/iub.463. PMID 21547992. 
  11. ^ a b c Gusev O, Nakahara Y, Vanyagina V, Malutina L, Cornette R, Sakashita T, Hamada N, Kikawada T, Kobayashi Y, Okuda T (2010). "Anhydrobiosis-associated nuclear DNA damage and repair in the sleeping chironomid: linkage with radioresistance". PLoS ONE 5 (11): e14008. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014008. PMC 2982815. PMID 21103355. 
  12. ^ J.H. Epler. 2001. Identification manual for the larval Chironomidae (Diptera) of North and South Carolina. North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
  13. ^ Armitage, P., Cranston, P.S., and Pinder, L.C.V. (eds.) (1994) The Chironomidae: Biology and Ecology of Non-biting Midges. Chapman and Hall, London, 572 pp.
  14. ^ Ekrem, Torbjørn. "Systematics and biogeography of Zavrelia, Afrozavrelia and Stempellinella (Diptera: Chironomidae)". Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  15. ^ Makarchenko, Eugenyi A. (2005). "A new species of Arctodiamesa Makarchenko (Diptera: Chironomidae: Diamesinae) from the Russian Far East, with a key to known species of the genus" (PDF). Zootaxa 1084: 59–64. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  16. ^ Caldwell, Broughton A.; Soponis, Annelle R. (1982). "Hudsonimyia Parrishi, a New Species of Tanypodinae (Diptera: Chironomidae) from Georgia" (PDF). The Florida Entomologist (Lutz, FL, USA: Florida Entomological Society) 65 (4): 506–513. doi:10.2307/3494686. ISSN 0015-4040. JSTOR 3494686. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  17. ^ Halvorsen, Godtfred A. (1982). "Saetheriella amplicristata gen. n., sp. n., a new Orthocladiinae (Diptera: Chironomidae) from Tennessee". Aquatic Insects, International Journal of Freshwater Entomology (Taylor & Francis) 4 (3): 131–136. doi:10.1080/01650428209361098. ISSN 1744-4152. 
  18. ^ Andersen, Trond; Sæther, Ole A. (January 1994). "Usambaromyia nigrala gen. n., sp. n., and Usambaromyiinae, a new subfamily among the Chironomidae (Diptera)". Aquatic Insects, International Journal of Freshwater Entomology (Taylor & Francis) 16 (1): 21–29. doi:10.1080/01650429409361531. ISSN 1744-4152. 
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