, Volume 594, Issue 1, pp 117-129

First online:

Interclonal variation in diel horizontal migration behaviour of the water flea Daphnia magna—searching for a signature of adaptive evolution

  • Helen MichelsAffiliated withLaboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Email author 
  • , Susanne Lildal AmsinckAffiliated withDepartment of Freshwater Ecology, National Environmental Research Institute
  • , Erik JeppesenAffiliated withDepartment of Freshwater Ecology, National Environmental Research InstituteDepartment of Plant Biology, University of Aarhus
  • , Luc De MeesterAffiliated withLaboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

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In shallow temperate lakes, zooplankton populations may exhibit diel horizontal migration (DHM) and move towards macrophytes during the day to avoid fish. Using a natural Daphnia magna population, we undertook an experimental investigation aimed to describe the genetic variation for DHM and to study whether an adaptive micro-evolutionary response occurred to changes in macrophyte coverage and fish predation pressure through time. Twenty-seven D. magna clones were hatched from ephippia in the sediment of shallow Lake Ring, Denmark. This lake was eutrophied during the 20th century and was subject to restoration measures in the 1970s. The DHM behaviour of the clones was observed both in the presence and absence of fish kairomone. Significant interclonal variation in DHM behaviour occurred in both treatments. To study the micro-evolutionary response of the Lake Ring D. magna population, two approaches were used. First, we compared the DHM behaviour of clones derived from ephippia collected at different depths. A comparison was conducted between clones resurrected from the period of eutrophication (1960–1980) and from the period of recovery (1986–2000). A significant treatment (presence and absence of fish kairomone) × period interaction effect was identified, suggesting a significant micro-evolutionary response for DHM behaviour. The D. magna clones exhibited a significantly stronger horizontal migration response during the period of eutrophication than in the recovery phase. Second, clonal means, representing the influence of the genotype on the trait, were correlated with environmental conditions (macrophyte cover, fish predation pressure and Secchi depth). The results of this analysis also suggest that a micro-evolutionary response by Daphnia has occurred in reaction to changes in fish predation pressure. In periods with high fish predation pressure, Daphnia migrated more strongly towards the plants.


Diel horizontal migration behaviour Adaptive evolution Daphnia magna Paleolimnology Shallow lake Resurrection ecology