Feeding, energy flow and soil turnover in the desert isopod, Hemilepistus reaumuri

M. Shachak, E. A. Chapman, Y. Steinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The desert woodlouse Hemilepistus reaumuri is one of the most abundant macroscopic invertebrates in North Africa, the Arabian steppes, semi-desert and desert, and the Negev desert Israel. The main purposes of our study were: 1. To investigate the feeding behaviour of H. reaumuri in the field and the laboratory, with special attention to the importance of soil and perennials in the isopods' diet. 2. To estimate annual energy flow and soil turnover by the isopods and to relate it to the role of isopods in the desert ecosystem. The results of field observations and feeding experiments in the laboratory show: a) That desert isopods are saprovores, herbivores and microbivores. b) That in order to survive the isopod should include soil particles and or soil minerals when feeding on vegetation. c) Annual ingestion was 10.3-38.6 kcals/m2, 3-12% of the available dead organic matter, and soil turnover 28.5-105.7 g/m2. It was hypothesized that by ingestion and defaecation of organic matter and inorganic soil particles, H. reaumuri alters the structure of the decomposition substrate and increase the rate of decomposition in the desert ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1976
Externally publishedYes


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