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  • Gordon Pritchard (a1)


Thermal springs are characterized by year-round high temperatures and a total-dissolved-solids concentration that is generally higher than that of surface waters. Insects appear to encounter few constraints from the water chemistry of most thermal springs, but considerable constraint from the high water temperature. Indeed, because no insect lives above 50 °C and very few above 40 °C, few thermal springs offer favorable conditions for insects in the actual boil itself. Thermal spring insects live in the stream at some distance from the source, and they may be defined as living in habitats having temperature regimens that are influenced by geothermy in the sense that they are warmer than they otherwise would be. An annual mean water temperature that is 5 °C above the annual mean air temperature of the region can be used to define the downstream limit of geothermal influence.Thermal springs around the world have similar insect faunas; only four orders (Diptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Odonata) are commonly represented, and each of these only by a handful of genera. Furthermore, the fauna of any one thermal spring is characterized by very few species, and the higher the temperature the lower the species richness. Both temperature and water chemistry may exclude certain species, and even whole orders, from thermal springs, these factors acting either directly, alone or in concert, or indirectly through competitive interactions. Even moderately warmed systems can significantly affect insect growth rates, and seasonal regulation of adult emergence through diapause is a common strategy of temperate-zone thermal spring insects.Thermal springs present many advantages to the ecologist, such as long-term habitat constancy, temperature stability, and taxonomic simplicity. They provide field laboratories for the study of temperature-related phenomena as well as the opportunity to explore a range of questions in biogeography and evolutionary biology. The challenge is to form the questions and select the systems critically.



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