Extended lifespan traded for diapause in Daphnia


Mirosław Slusarczyk, Department of Hydrobiology, University of Warsaw, Banacha 2, 02-097 Warszawa, Poland.
E-mail: m.slusarczyk@uw.edu.pl


1. Most freshwater crustaceans of the genus Daphnia are cyclically parthenogenetic organisms that are well adapted to unstable habitats due to their short life cycle, wide phenotypic plasticity, and the ability to produce protective diapausing eggs in anticipation of environmental deterioration. Short lifespan and heterogonic reproduction are typical features of Daphnia in a broad spectrum of freshwater habitats, from small temporary pools to large permanent lakes. However, in some locations, departures may be observed from this typical life history pattern to obligate asexuality or extended lifespan.

2. A 3-year field study in a deep ultraoligotrophic fish-free alpine-type lake (Czarny Staw in the Tatra mountains in southern Poland) revealed the coexistence of two closely related asexual lineages of Daphnia of the pulex complex, which differ in body colour (transparent versus orange) and in their strategies for surviving long winters.

3. The ‘transparent’ clone of European origin exhibits an ephemeral lifestyle. It completes its life cycle within a single season, forming two generations of active specimens during the short summer and producing diapausing eggs late in the season. Transparent individuals live no longer than 5–6 months in this cold lake and survive winter exclusively in the form of diapausing eggs.

4. Individuals of the ‘orange’ lineage, which are closely related to eastern Nearctic Daphnia pulicaria, exhibit a biennial lifestyle unique to this genus. They do not form diapausing eggs or produce them only occasionally. Instead, they are active throughout the year and live for up to 13–14 months. Reproduction is postponed until the second year of life when food conditions have improved. Rich lipid reserves accumulated in the first season fuel them during the long winter and permit early reproduction the following spring.

5. Possible reasons for the evolution of obligatory parthenogenesis and long lifespan in Daphnia are discussed.