Top-Down Effects of Salamanders on Macroinvertebrates in Fishless Headwater Streams

Miriam O. Bayer, Winsor H. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Salamanders are the top predators in many fishless headwater streams, and intraguild interactions among stream salamanders are well documented. However, little is known about the top-down effects of salamanders on stream food webs or how intraguild interactions mediate these effects. To investigate the effects of salamanders on macroinvertebrate communities of headwater streams, we conducted an experiment in stream mesocosms to test for effects of two stream salamander species, namely, Eurycea bislineata and Gyrinophilus porphyriticus, alone or in combination, on benthic and emerging macroinvertebrate density, biomass, and community composition. We also assessed intraguild interactions between these salamander species by comparing Eurycea bislineata survival and G. porphyriticus growth in single-species versus two-species treatments. Gyrinophilus porphyriticus reduced benthic macroinvertebrate densities when alone but not when co-occurring with E. bislineata. There were no effects of salamanders on benthic macroinvertebrate biomass or community composition and no effects on emerging macroinvertebrate density, biomass, or community composition. Eurycea bislineata survival decreased and G. porphyriticus weight increased in two-species treatments, suggesting that intraguild predation was occurring. Overall, although some of our findings are equivocal, these results suggest that salamanders can exert top-down control on macroinvertebrate communities in fishless headwater streams, decreasing benthic macroinvertebrate density. But this effect is dependent on the salamander species present, and can be removed by intraguild interactions between salamander species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • Eurycea bislineata
  • Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
  • Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
  • Intraguild predation


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