Impacts of harvesting on brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) in Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA


  • Corresponding Editor: D. Brunton


Selective harvesting can cause evolutionary responses in populations via shifts in phenotypic characteristics, especially those affecting life history. Brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) cysts in Great Salt Lake (GSL), Utah, USA are commercially harvested with techniques that select against floating cysts. This selective pressure could cause evolutionary changes over time. Our objectives are to (1) determine if there is a genetic basis to cyst buoyancy, (2) determine if cyst buoyancy and nauplii mortality have changed over time, and (3) to examine GSL environmental conditions over time to distinguish whether selective harvesting pressure or a trend in environmental conditions caused changes in cyst buoyancy and nauplii mortality. Mating crosses between floating and sinking parental phenotypes with two food concentrations (low and high) indicated there is a genetic basis to cyst buoyancy. Using cysts harvested from 1991–2011, we found cyst buoyancy decreased and nauplii mortality increased over time. Data on water temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll a concentration in GSL from 1994 to 2011 indicated that although water temperature has increased over time and chlorophyll a concentration has decreased over time, the selective harvesting pressure against floating cysts is a better predictor of changes in cyst buoyancy and nauplii mortality over time than trends in environmental conditions. Harvesting of GSL A. franciscana cysts is causing evolutionary changes, which has implications for the sustainable management and harvesting of these cysts. Monitoring phenotypic characteristics and life-history traits of the population should be implemented and appropriate responses taken to reduce the impacts of the selective harvesting.