Larval Habitat Preference of the Endemic Hawaiian Midge, Telmatogeton torrenticola Terry (Telmatogetoninae)

M. Eric Benbow, University of Dayton
Albert J. Burky, University of Dayton
Carl M. Way, Barry Vittor and Associates


Telmatogeton torrenticola Terry is a large endemic chironomid (lastinstar >20 mm) commonly found in high gradient Hawaiian streams on smoothrock surfaces with torrential, shallow flow and in the splash zones ofwaterfalls. We have quantified benthic water flow in larval habitat in a 50m segment of Kinihapai Stream, Maui using a thermistor-based microcurrentmeter. Under base flow conditions at sites suitable for larval attachment,depth was measured and bottom water velocity measurements were made ≈2 mmabove populations. Larval densities ranged from 386.9–1178m−2, habitat bottom water velocities from 13.4–64.2 cms−1, and water depths from 1.5–50 cm. Bottom velocitiesof sites with zero larvae ranged from 20.8–21.8 cm s−1with depths from ≈50 to >160 cm. Larval densities were greatest inareas with high bottom water velocities and shallow depths. Stepwisemultiple regression analyses showed that density could be confidentlypredicted best by Froude number (r=0.81; p=0.008). In the absence of Froudenumber as a regression term, the best variable to predict larval density wasbottom velocity ratio: relative depth ratio (r=0.75; p=0.019). In addition, the torrential habitat of the larvae was always characterized by aperiphyton community that appeared to be the primary food resource for the larvae. These data suggest that torrential flows over appropriate substrates are important factors regulating habitat availability for T. torrenticola and that reduced discharge (e.g. affected by water diversions) could significantly reduce the amount of available habitat for this organism and other flow sensitive stream fauna.