Get access

Copepod life cycle adaptations and success in response to phytoplankton spring bloom phenology


Present address: Hanno Seebens, Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), University of Oldenburg, 26169 Oldenburg, Germany, PO Box 2503, 26111 Oldenburg, tel. +49 441 798 3612, fax +49 441 798 3404, e-mail:


In a seasonal environment, the timing of reproduction is usually scheduled to maximize the survival of offspring. Within deep water bodies, the phytoplankton spring bloom provides a short time window of high food quantity and quality for herbivores. The onset of algal bloom development, however, varies strongly from year to year due to interannual variability in meteorological conditions. Furthermore, the onset is predicted to change with global warming. Here, we use a long-term dataset to study (a) how a cyclopoid copepod, Cyclops vicinus, is dealing with the large variability in phytoplankton bloom phenology, and (b) if bloom phenology has an influence on offspring numbers. C. vicinus performed a two-phase dormancy, that is, the actual diapause of fourth copepodid stages at the lake bottom is followed by a delay in maturation, that is, a quiescence, within the fifth copepodid stage until the start of the spring bloom. This strategy seems to guarantee a high temporal match of the food requirements for successful offspring development, especially through the highly vulnerable naupliar stages, with the phytoplankton spring bloom. However, despite this match with food availability in all study years, offspring numbers, that is, offspring survival rates were higher in years with an early start of the phytoplankton bloom. In addition, the phenology of copepod development suggested that also within study years, early offspring seems to have lower mortality rates than late produced offspring. We suggest that this is due to a longer predator-free time period and/or reduced time stress for development. Hence, within the present climate variability, the copepod benefited from warmer spring temperatures resulting in an earlier phytoplankton spring bloom. Time will show if the copepod's strategy is flexible enough to cope with future warming.