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Depth selection by Daphnia pulex in response to Chaoborus kairomone


Ken Spitze, 1601 Maple St, Carrollton, GA 30118, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. The presence of kairomone from the predaceous larval dipteran Chaoborus americanus can result in juvenile Daphnia pulex positioning themselves higher in the water column. Chaoborus normally lives at greater depth during the day, so this behavioural response by Daphnia will reduce its encounter rate with the predator and enhance survival.

2. Behavioural observations of seven clones from a single population were made under four treatments (with and without Chaoborus kairomone prior to and/or during experiments).

3. All clones moved higher when exposed to kairomones during behavioural observations. Six moved higher when kairomone was added prior to the experiment (i.e. pre-conditioned), while the other clone went lower, providing evidence for the presence of genetic variation in induced behaviour. When this clone was removed from the analysis, the evidence for genetic variation in induced response disappeared.

4. Juvenile Daphnia that were pre-conditioned had a significantly greater response than those that had no previous exposure. Of the total shift in depth (comparing treatment and control means), 38% was due to prior exposure to the kairomone (‘preconditioning’), while 62% was due to exposure during the 2-h experiments when the depth selection was assessed. When the effect of the one clone with a qualitatively different response was removed, these two figures became 45% and 55%, respectively.

5. The enhanced effect of prior exposure to the kairomone during development suggests that such exposure causes greater sensitivity to the kairomone.

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