Purdue University Graduate School
Rackliffe Dissertation.pdf (2.88 MB)


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posted on 2021-04-27, 19:15 authored by Daniel R RackliffeDaniel R Rackliffe

Mayflies are important macroinvertebrate members of steam communities and are highly sensitive to agricultural insecticides. In this dissertation I sought to explore whether Heptageniidae mayflies in Indiana have evolved greater tolerance to clothianidin, a neonicotinoid insecticide that has been widely applied over the predominant corn and soybean crops of the state for the last 20 years. Over the five chapters of this dissertation, I investigate different aspects of the effects of clothianidin on mayfly populations. First, I collected mayfly populations from streams around the state across a gradient of agricultural landscape to see if proximity to corn and soybean crops was associated with tolerance to the insecticide. I found significant variation in tolerance between the populations but only connected it to land use for one species and one insecticide. Second, I investigated the potential for increases in predation rates due to exposure to low concentrations of clothianidin by both a vertebrate and invertebrate predator. Sublethal exposure did increase the risk of predation by the invertebrate predator but not the vertebrate. Third, I collected four populations of mayflies and placed them in a common stream which is heavily impacted by agricultural runoff. The most tolerant of the four populations had the highest survival rates and was native to the polluted stream, suggesting that it was best adapted to the local conditions. Finally, the last chapter is a discussion of the factors influencing the evolution of contaminant tolerance, the implications for biomonitoring, and a series of recommendations for incorporating evolved tolerance into biomonitoring practices. Collectively, this work suggests that the lethal and sublethal effects of clothianidin exposure create conditions suitable for the evolution of tolerance in Heptageniid mayflies. While there are already differences in tolerance between populations, it seems likely that mayfly pesticide tolerance will continue to increase as pesticides continue to impact aquatic ecosystems.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jason T. Hoverman

Additional Committee Member 2

Christian Krupke

Additional Committee Member 3

Reuben Goforth

Additional Committee Member 4

Mark Christie