Bryocamptus pygmaeus, copyright Inta Dimante-Deimantovica.

Belongs within: Podogennonta.

Small waters
Published 13 February 2016

For this week’s semi-random post topic, I drew the copepod genus Bryocamptus. Copepods have made an appearance on this site before, seeing as these minute crustaceans inhabit almost all the world’s waters. Bryocamptus belongs within the harpacticoids, one of the three main groups of free-living copepods (the others are the calanoids and cyclopoids), and like other harpacticoids members of this genus have a more-or-less parallel-sided, somewhat wormlike form, though Bryocamptus species are shorter than some. Within the harpacticoids, this genus belongs to the family Canthocamptidae, members of which have the first segment of the body bearing swimming legs fused to the cephalothorax (Caramujo & Boavida 2009).

Female Bryocamptus minutus, from here.

There are over 100 recognised species of Bryocamptus, found in a wide range of fresh-watery habitats (Lee & Chang 2006). They may be found in mountain streams, in springs and temporary pools, or in subterranean groundwaters. Some may even be found ‘terrestrially’, living in the water film around leaf-litter, mosses or within the soil (Fiers 2013). One type of habitat that I haven’t found reference to Bryocamptus living in is larger water bodies such as lakes. This is not particularly unusual: nutrients and micro-organisms tend to accumulate along boundaries, so habitats with a high proportion of edges tend to attract a higher diversity than the relative deserts that are larger water bodies.

Sometimes these habitats can be very small indeed. Groundwater species, for instance, may be restricted to the cracks within formations only some tens of metres in extent. Cottarelli et al. (2012) described Bryocamptus stillae from Conza Cave near Palermo in Sicily. This species was found in seasonal rimstone pools within the cave: temporary pools that would be filled by water dripping from the ceiling during the winter, only to dry up in the summer. However, the copepods are unable to survive out of water, and canthocamptids do not have a resistant phase in their life cycle that could survive the ppols drying out. Cottarelli et al. therefore inferred that the pools were not the copepods’ primary habitat; rather, the copepods normally lived in the epikarst, the layer of limestone above the cave. Despite being only a few metres thick, this limestone layer retained enough pockets of moisture to provide a home for the copepods. During the rainy season, when water was more actively flowing through the epikarst, some of the more unfortunate copepods would be carried by the water as it dripped through the cave ceiling into the pools below. They would survive (and even breed) so long as the pools remained wet but they would be doomed to die off over the summer, with the following year’s copepods representing an entirely new batch. Interestingly, though, Cottarelli et al. found B. stillae in only one group of pools in the cave. In a second group of pools, only about ten or fifteen metres away, an entirely different copepod species was found. Cottarelli et al. collected in the cave over three separate seasons, and each time the same species was found in the same pools. The evidence indicated that, even though these pools were so close, the water dripping into them came from separate, isolated epikarst formations, each one home to its own species of highly localised copepods.

Systematics of Bryocamptus
<==Bryocamptus Chappuis 1928R86
    |  i. s.: B. aquaedulcis Borutzky 1934R86
    |         B. arcticusKF00
    |         B. dacicusR86
    |         B. similisR86 [incl. B. zschokkei tatrensis (Minkiewicz 1916)R86, FS14]
    |--B. (Bryocamptus)R86
    |    |--B. (B.) intercalaris Shen & Tai 1973R86
    |    `--B. (B.) minutus (Claus 1863)S-MR03 [=Canthocamptus minutusS-MR03; incl. B. minutus f. bispinosaR86]
    |--B. (Limocamptus Chappuis 1928)R86
    |    |--B. (L.) hostensis Borutzky 1972R86
    |    `--B. (L.) morrisoni Chappuis 1929R86
    |         |--B. m. morrisoniR86
    |         `--B. m. elegans Chappuis 1929R86
    `--B. (Rheocamptus Borutzky 1948)R86
         |--B. (R.) balcanicus (Kiefer 1933) [=B. zschokkei balcanicus; incl. B. balcanicus f. babunae Petkovski 1956]R86
         |--B. (R.) birsteini Borutzki 1940R86
         |--B. (R.) bispinosus Borutzki 1940R86
         |--B. (R.) dentatus Chappuis 1937R86
         |--B. (R.) innominatus Borutzki 1940R86
         |--B. (R.) pygmaeus (Sars 1863)FS14 [incl. B. pygmaeus f. balcanicaR86]
         |--B. (R.) pyrenaicus (Chappuis 1923)R86
         |--B. (R.) reductus Borutzky 1948R86
         |--B. (R.) tauricus Borutzky 1930R86
         |--B. (R.) typhlops (Mrázek 1893)FS14
         |--B. (R.) unisaetosus Kiefer 1930R86
         `--B. (R.) zschokkei [incl. B. zschokkei f. kalinae Petkovski 1956]R86
              |--B. z. zschokkeiR86
              `--B. z. caucasicus [incl. B. zschokkei caucasicus f. triarticulata Sterba 1967]R86

*Type species of generic name indicated


Caramujo, M.-J., & M.-J. Boavida. 2009. The practical identification of harpacticoids (Copepoda, Harpacticoida) in inland waters of central Portugal for applied studies. Crustaceana 82 (4): 385–409.

Cottarelli, V., M. C. Bruno, M. T. Spena & R. Grasso. 2012. Studies on subterranean copepods from Italy, with descriptions of two new epikarstic species from a cave in Sicily. Zoological Studies 51 (4): 556–582.

[FS14] Fiasca, B., F. Stoch, M.-J. Olivier, C. Maazouzi, M. Petitta, A. Di Cioccio & D. M. P. Galassi. 2014. The dark side of springs: what drives small-scale spatial patterns of subsurface meiofaunal assemblages? J. Limnol. 73 (1): 71–80.

Fiers, F. 2013. Bryocamptus (Bryocamptus) gauthieri (Roy, 1924): a Mediterranean edaphic specialist (Crustacea: Copepoda: Harpacticoida). Revue Suisse de Zoologie 120 (3): 357–371.

[KF00] Kristensen, R. M., & P. Funch. 2000. Micrognathozoa: a new class with complicated jaws like those of Rotifera and Gnathostomulida. Journal of Morphology 246: 1–49.

Lee, J. M., & C. Y. Chang. 2006. Taxonomy on freshwater canthocamptid harpacticoids from South Korea V. Genus Bryocamptus. Korean J. Syst. Zool. 22 (2): 195–208.

[R86] Rouch, R. 1986. Copepoda: Les harpacticoïdes souterrains des eaux douces continentales. In: Botosaneanu, L. (ed.) Stygofauna Mundi: A Faunistic, Distributional, and Ecological Synthesis of the World Fauna inhabiting Subterranean Waters (including the Marine Interstitial) pp. 321–355. E. J. Brill/Dr W. Backhuys: Leiden.

[S-MR03] Suárez-Morales, E., & J. W. Reid. 2003. An updated checklist of the continental copepod fauna of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, with notes on its regional associations. Crustaceana 76 (8): 977–991.

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