, Volume 491, Issue 1-3, pp 65-84

Egg banks in freshwater zooplankton: evolutionary and ecological archives in the sediment

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Abstract

Many representatives of freshwater zooplankton produce at some stage in their life cycle resting stages. A variable portion of the eggs of the previous growing period will hatch at the next occasion while the remaining ones are added to a persistent egg bank, where they can remain viable for decades or longer. The importance of the study of resting eggs and egg banks in general for such different disciplines as taxonomy, ecological biogeography, paleolimnology, nature conservation, evolutionary ecology and community and population ecology is generally appreciated. The major current and expected future developments in this rapidly expanding field of research are presented here. The structure and dynamics of the egg bank are determined by the life history characteristics of the species (or local population), the hatching phenology of their resting stages, and the characteristics of the habitat. The horizontal distribution of dormant stages is generally patchy, with a greater density in the deeper and/or windward parts of a pond or lake. In sediment cores, most viable (responsive) eggs occur in the upper centimeters, although vertical variation related to the history of fish predation or water quality occurs. The accumulation of resting stages of different species, generations and genotypes with variable regeneration niches results in a mixed egg bank with greater potential biodiversity than the active community sampled at any one moment. Through the benthic–pelagic coupling, this dormant reservoir may have considerable impact on the evolutionary potential of the organisms, the ecological dynamics of the community and the distribution of species. Egg banks can be considered the archive of the local habitat, since the pattern of changes in species assemblage and genotypes from the past up to the present reflect changes due to natural or anthropogenic impact that can be used to reconstruct evolutionary processes or even to restore the local habitat. Overlooking the egg bank as an important component of zooplankton communities may lead to erroneous interpretations in the analysis of community and population genetic structure. This review integrates technical and scientific information needed in the study of the structure and function of egg banks in zooplankton with special focus on the fascinating latest developments in the field.