Trophic ecology and diet of Hydra vulgaris (Cnidaria; Hydrozoa)

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Hydra is a genus of common, sessile, solitary freshwater cnidarians, which are defined as carnivorous and efficient predators. The purpose of this study was to obtain information on the feeding habits and diet of Hydra vulgaris collected from its natural habitat in Nahuel Rucá Lake (Buenos Aires Province, Argentina). We found three categories of food items in the coelenteron: algae, fungi, and small invertebrates. Algae dominated the diet in terms of abundance and frequency of occurrence, but their volumetric contribution was almost negligible, as was their possible nutritional value. Invertebrate prey captured, using active predation, represented the major volumetric contribution, with four different taxa found. The detection of phytoplankton in the gastral cavities reveals the input of some organisms present in the surrounding waters in addition to the invertebrates. This information is novel, since studies on the natural diet of Hydra are very scarce.

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Figures
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    Different invertebrate prey in the guts of Hydra vulgaris. (A) Copepoda, Cyclopoida: Acanthocyclops robustus. (B) Cladocera: Daphnia sp. (C) Cladocera: Alonella sp. (D) and (E) Diptera: Chironominae larvae.

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    Invertebrate residues found inside the coelenterons. (A), (B), (D) and (E) Cladocera: Alonella sp. (C) Diptera: Chironominae larvae.

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    Algae and fungi found inside the coelenterons. (A) Oedogonium sp. (B) Epithemia sorex. (C) Cosmarium formosulum. (D) and (Ñ) Synedra acus. (E) Navicula sp. (F) Synedra ulna. (G) Class Hyphomycetes. (H) Nitzschia tryblionella. (I) Scenedesmus quadricauda. (J) Nitzschia filiformis. (K) Cocconeis placentula and Rhoicosphenia abbreviata. (L) Gomphonema constrictum. (LL) Scenedesmus falcatus. (M) C. placentula, Cyclotella meneghineana and Navicula zanoni. (N) Order Zygnematales.

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    Index of Relative Importance (IRI) for a total of 106 polyps. Abbreviations: %f, percentage of frequency of prey occurrence; N, percentage of prey numerical abundance; %Vol, percentage of prey volume; invert, invertebrates.

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