The gut contents of a guild of invertebrate grazers inhabiting the moss Fontinalis and feeding on epiphytic diatoms in a small Québec stream were analyzed to characterize resource partitioning and food selection. A multivariate approach (RLQ analysis coupled with a revised version of 4th-corner analysis) identified distinct diet patterns among co-occurring grazers. These patterns were mainly explained by differential ingestion of diatoms that differed in their spatial positions within the multilayered periphyton mat. When the size range of available diatoms was large, diet differences were partly explained by diatom size. Comparison of diatoms in grazer guts with diatoms available in the environment indicated selective feeding in different levels of the periphyton mat by grazers. Some grazers (scrapers) fed preferentially on tightly attached diatoms, whereas others (surfers) favored overstory diatoms. Spatial segregation of feeding within the periphyton mat by members of the grazer guild was more evident in a period of potential resource limitation (July) than when food was abundant (May). Our results suggest that all layers/growth forms in the diatom mat are used, resulting in spatial partitioning of the resource when considering the entire grazer community. Therefore, foraging theories already established for other ecosystems are confirmed in the unique context of stream benthos.
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