Food quality influences habitat selection in Daphnia

Elke Reichwaldt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    1. The vertical distribution of Daphnia in stratified lakes strongly depends on the depth profiles of temperature and food resources. However, ecological requirements for these factors are slightly different for juvenile and adult Daphnia.2. Here, I investigated whether food quality influences the habitat selection of Daphnia pulicaria at night and whether the habitat selection of juvenile and adult D. pulicaria is different. Daphnia were allowed to choose their optimal habitat in large, stratified water columns (plankton towers, Plon) that held either the green alga Scenedesmus obliquus (high quality) in the cold hypolimnion (Hypo-treatment) or S. obliquus in the warm epi- and cold hypolimnion (SCEN-treatment) or the non-toxic cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus (low quality) in the warm epilimnion and S. obliquus in the cold hypolimnion (SYN treatment).3. When food (S. obliquus) was present only in the hypolimnion (Hypo-treatment), juveniles and adults distributed similarly in the water column and spent most of their time in the interface between the warm and the food rich layer.4. When food was present in the epilimnion and hypolimnion (SCEN- and SYN-treatments), juvenile and adult D. pulicaria moved into the warm and now also food-rich epilimnion, however, the magnitude of this shift depended on the food type and age class of Daphnia. Adult and juvenile D. pulicaria spent most of their time in the epilimnion when food there was of a high quality (S. obliquus; SCEN-treatment). However, compared to the juveniles, adult Daphnia spent significantly more time in the colder hypolimnion when epilimnetic food was of a low quality (S. elongatus; SYN-treament).5. Therefore, habitat selection of adult D. pulicaria was affected by food quality whereas the habitat selection of juveniles was not.6. Additional growth and reproduction experiments show that the food quality is likely to be responsible for the different habitat selection of juveniles and adults in the SYN-treatment.7. In conclusion, my experiments show that D. pulicaria behaviourally reacts to the quality of its food source.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)872-883
    JournalFreshwater Biology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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