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Aufwuchs is a term used to cover the small animals and plants that encrust hard substrates, such as rocks, in aquatic environments. The name originated as a German term literally meaning "surface growth" or "overgrowth", and is frequently misspelled "awfuchs" or similar due to the unusual (for native English speakers) "-ufw-" combination. Indeed, the correct English pronunciation of "aufwuchs" can be rendered approximately as " 'owfvooks".
In both marine and freshwater environments, algae – particularly green algae and diatoms – make up the dominant component of aufwuchs communities. Small crustaceans, rotifers, and protozoans are also commonly found in fresh water and the sea, but insect larvae, oligochaetes and tardigrades are peculiar to freshwater aufwuchs faunas.
Many aquatic animals feed extensively on aufwuchs. The mbuna cichlids from Lake Malawi are particularly well known examples of fish adapted for feeding on aufwuchs. Examples include Labeotropheus trewavasae and Pseudotropheus zebra. They have scraper-like teeth that allow them to rasp the aufwuchs from rocks . In marine communities, aufwuchs is an important source of food for animals such as limpets and sea urchins.
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