Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 771–780 | Cite as

Hatching phenology, life history and egg bank size of fairy shrimp Branchipodopsis spp. (Branchiopoda, Crustacea) in relation to the ephemerality of their rock pool habitat

  • Bram VanschoenwinkelEmail author
  • Maitland Seaman
  • Luc Brendonck


In temporary aquatic habitats, permanence and the severe disturbance associated with desiccation are strong selective agents expected to lead to differentiation in life history strategies in populations experiencing different disturbance regimes. Besides optimal timing of hatching of dormant life stages, maturation and reproduction, pool inhabitants also benefit from the acquisition of reliable cues for the quality of the ambient environment. We investigated whether hatching patterns, life history characteristics and egg bank size of Branchipodopsis fairy shrimp (Branchiopoda, Anostraca) inhabiting a cluster of temporary rock pools in South Africa reflect variation in habitat stability and hatching cues. Long-term hydrological variation was used to select pools along a gradient of habitat stability. Initial conductivity was a good indicator for the length of inundations. No hatching occurred under elevated conductivities, which may present a mechanism to avoid abortive hatching. Egg bank size was unaffected by habitat size or habitat stability but instead was related to cover by a protective sheet of dry aquatic vegetation, which presumably counteracts egg bank erosion by wind when pools are dry. Life history but not hatching phenology reflected some aspects of habitat stability. Fairy shrimp populations in ephemeral pools started reproduction earlier than populations in more stable habitats. Additional common garden or transplant experiments, however, will be required to assess the relative importance of environmental and genetic components in explaining the observed variation and acquire more insight into the trade-offs that lie at the base of the evolution of life history strategies along the pond permanence gradient.


Hatching phenology Hydroperiod Hydroregime Life history evolution Temporary pools Dormant egg banks 



Bram Vanschoenwinkel was supported by a PhD grant from the Fund for scientific research Flanders (FWO) during the time this research was undertaken and currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship with the KULeuven research fund (PDM-Kort). We thank the family Strydom and Danie Vorster for logistic support and access to the site. This research is financially supported by project G.0118.03 of the FWO (Fund for scientific Research Flanders). We are grateful to Rony Van Aerschot for manufacturing the hatching chambers and to Helga Seaman for borrowing her vehicle.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bram Vanschoenwinkel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maitland Seaman
    • 2
  • Luc Brendonck
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Centre for Environmental ManagementUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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