Thursday, August 16, 2012

Links in the Food Chain

Cyclops and juvenile long-toed salamander (c) John Ashley
A Cyclops swims past a one-inch-long juvenile, long-toed salamander.

Swimming Cyclops (c) John Ashley
With its one red eye, the Cyclops (Cyclops spp.) is a tiny crustacean that's related to crabs and shrimp. Cyclops are omnivorous, eating smaller critters like diatoms and dinoflagellates. In turn, the Cyclops are eaten by all manner of invertebrate predators, like larval dragonflies.

Larger dragonfly larvae can catch and eat small salamanders, like this long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum). But the tables can turn as the salamanders grow larger.

The aquatic, juvenile salamanders have an overlap period when they possess both shrinking gills and emerging limbs. The growing salamanders eventually develop lungs, absorb their external gills, and leave the pond for a life on land - where many will be relished by garter snakes.