Ecology: Gammarus fasciatus is a freshwater benthic amphipod that can tolerate very low levels of salinity. It occurs in both rivers and lakes, is particularly abundant in shallow well oxygenated areas, and is frequently associated with thick macrophyte beds. In the St. Lawrence River, the abundance of Gammarus fasciatus is positively correlated with the biomass of Cladophora spp., macrophytes, and pH. In some ponds in Ontario, it occurs at pH above 7 (Palmer and Ricciardi 2004). Gammarus fasciatus survives well at water temperatures around 10–15°C but it becomes increasingly intolerant of temperatures increasing past 20°C. The length of time Gammarus fasciatus can tolerate a specific water temperature above 20°C decreases with increasing temperature. Temperatures of 34–35°C and greater cause relatively rapid mortality. Gammarus spp. were found to be absent in the presence of oil pollution ( Borgmann et al. 1989; Thibault and Couture 1980, 1982; Pennak 1989; Van Maren 1978; Hart and Fuller 1974; Sprague 1963; Pentland 1930).
Gammarus fasciatus mate between April and November and individuals only mate once. Males will pair with females by grasping them and carrying them on their backs until the female has molted and is ready to mate. At this point the male will reposition the female and use his pleopods to insert sperm into the female's brood pouch. Eggs of Gammarus fasciatus are carried by the mother until they have hatched and juveniles have developed appendages. Typically eggs hatch 2-4 weeks to hatch and 8-23 offspring are produced. Young develop through a series of molting. The first five instar phases (periods in-between molting) are considered juvenile phases where the two sexes are indistinguishable. At the sixth instar the sexes are visually distinguishable. Individuals become sexually mature two months after hatching and have a lifespan of approximately one year (Kestrup and Riccardi 2010; Van Overdijk et al. 2003;Pennak 1989;Clemens 1950).
Gammarus fasciatus function as both predators and shredders feeding on detritus, coarse and fine particulate organic matter, filamentous algae, diatoms, animal matter, its own species, and zooplankton such as Daphnia spp. Smaller individuals feed on detritus more frequently. Gammarus fasciatus can be a common food item for many fish species, including yellow perch (Perca flavescens). Amphipods support an “amazing” population of algae and sessile Protozoa on their external body surfaces (Swiss and Johnson 1976; Borgmann et al. 1989; Weisberg and Janicki 1990; Delong et al. 1993; Brent Summers et al. 1997; Pennak 1989; Gonzalez and Burkart 2004).
In Lake Ontario G. fasciatus is potentially one of the hosts for the nematode Cosmocephalus obvelatus, which infects the oesophagus of gulls. In the St. John estuary, New Brunswick, it is host to the nematode Capillospirura pseudoargumentosa, which develops to the infective stage in the amphipod and then infects shortnose sturgeon. The swim bladder nematode Cystidicola farionis develops to the 3rd stage in this species, and then eventually infects fish species. G. fasciatus is intermediate host to other aquatic parasites as well, including some acanthocephalans (Johnson 1975; Smith and Lankester 1979; Wong and Anderson 1982; Appy and Dadswell 1983).
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