, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 47–55 | Cite as

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

  • Lawrence J. Weider
  • Punidan D. Jeyasingh
  • Karen G. Looper
Population Ecology - Original Paper


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.


Clones Competition Life histories Phosphorus Stoichiometry 



This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (U.S. Grant no. 9977047). All experiments conducted in this study comply with the current laws of the country (U.S.A.) in which they were performed. We thank D.O. Hessen and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

442_2008_1126_MOESM1_ESM.doc (72 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence J. Weider
    • 1
  • Punidan D. Jeyasingh
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karen G. Looper
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate Program in EEB, Department of Zoology and Biological StationUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology, Evolution and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaSt PaulUSA

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