Diversity and distribution of polyphagan water beetles (Coleoptera) in the Lake St Lucia system, South Africa

Matthew S. Bird, David T. Bilton, Renzo Perissinotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Water beetles belonging to the suborder Polyphaga vary greatly in larval and adult ecologies, and fulfil important functional roles in shallow-water ecosystems by processing plant material, scavenging and through predation. This study investigates the species richness and composition of aquatic polyphagan assemblages in and around the St Lucia estuarine lake (South Africa), within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A total of 32 sites were sampled over three consecutive collection trips between 2013 and 2015. The sites encompassed a broad range of aquatic habitats, being representative of the variety of freshwater and estuarine environments present on the St Lucia coastal plain. Thirty-seven polyphagan taxa were recorded during the dedicated surveys of this study, in addition to seven species-level records from historical collections. Most beetles recorded are relatively widespread Afrotropical species and only three are endemic to South Africa. Samples were dominated by members of the Hydrophilidae (27 taxa), one of which was new to science (Hydrobiomorpha perissinottoi Bilton, 2016). Despite the fauna being dominated by relatively widespread taxa, five represent new records for South Africa, highlighting the poor state of knowledge on water beetle distribution patterns in the region. Wetlands within the dense woodland characterising the False Bay region of St Lucia supported a distinct assemblage of polyphagan beetles, whilst sites occurring on the Eastern and Western Shores of Lake St Lucia were very similar in their beetle composition. In line with the Afrotropical region as a whole, the aquatic Polyphaga of St Lucia appear to be less diverse than the Hydradephaga, for which 68 species were recorded during the same period. However, the results of the present study, in conjunction with those for Hydradephaga, show that the iSimangaliso Wetland Park contains a high beetle diversity. The ongoing and future ecological protection of not only the estuarine lake itself, but also surrounding freshwater wetlands, is imperative and should be taken into consideration during future management planning for the park.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-84
Number of pages34
JournalZooKeys
Volume2017
Issue number656
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Afrotropical region
  • Aquatic Coleoptera
  • Biodiversity census
  • Hydrophilidae
  • ISimangaliso Wetland Park
  • Polyphaga

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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