, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 47-55
Date: 14 Aug 2008

Stoichiometric differences in food quality: impacts on genetic diversity and the coexistence of aquatic herbivores in a Daphnia hybrid complex

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The maintenance of genetic and species diversity in an assemblage of genotypes (clones) in the Daphnia pulex species complex (Cladocera: Anomopoda) in response to variation in the carbon:phosphorus ratio (quantity and quality) of the green alga, Scenedesmus acutus, was examined in a 90-day microcosm competition experiment. Results indicated that mixed assemblages of seven distinct genotypes (representing clonal lineages of D. pulex, D. pulicaria and interspecific hybrids) showed rapid loss of genetic diversity in all treatments (2 × 2 factorial design, high vs. low quantity, and high vs. low quality). However, the erosion of diversity (measured as the effective number of clones) was slowest under the poorest food conditions (i.e., low quantity, low quality) and by the conclusion of the experiment (90 days) had resulted in the (low, low) treatment having significantly greater genetic diversity than the other three treatments. In addition, significant genotype (clone) × (food) environment interactions were observed, with a different predominant species/clone found under low food quality versus high food quality (no significant differences were detected for the two food quantities). A clone of D. pulex displaced the other clones under low food quality conditions, while a clone of D. pulicaria displaced the other clones in the high food quality treatments. Subsequent life-history experiments were not sufficient to predict the outcome of competitive interactions among members of this clonal assemblage. Our results suggest that genetic diversity among herbivore species such as Daphnia may be impacted not only by differences in food quantity but also by those in food quality and could be important in the overall maintenance of genetic diversity in natural populations.

Communicated by Dag Olav Hessen.