Seasonal and Altitudinal Variation in the Distribution and Abundance of Tardigrada on Dugger Mountain, Alabama

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A seasonal survey of the distribution of terrestrial tardigrades on Dugger Mountain, Alabama, was conducted during the time period from April 1997 through April 1998. Cryptogams from five trees (Quercus alba), three on north-facing slopes and two on south-facing slopes, were sampled seasonally at three stations (645 m, 410 m, 183 m) along an unnamed tributary of the South Fork of Terrapin Creek. Trees were chosen based on their location outside the riparian zone. Tardigrades were extracted from the samples, mounted individually in Hoyer's medium, and identified to species with phase microscopy. Seasonal and altitudinal variations in the distribution of the populations on the north- and south-facing slopes were determined. Present on Dugger Mountain were tardigrades belonging to 12 species (Macrobiotus cf. areolatus/tonollii, Macrobiotus cf. echinogenitus, Macrobiotus islandicus, Macrobiotus richtersi, Minibiotus intermedius, Milnesium tardigradum, Diphascon pingue, Hypsibius pallidus, Echiniscus cf. arctomys. Echiniscus virginicus, Pseudechiniscus ramazzottii, and Pseudechiniscus suillus). Due to the small numbers of individuals of each species, the total numbers of tardigrades of all species were pooled. There were no significant differences in the mean number of species or the mean number of all tardigrades per sample at each station (altitude). However, seasonal differences in both abundance and number of species were detected in pooled samples due to the high numbers collected in spring 1997.