Using morphological characters of subfossil daphniid postabdominal claws to improve taxonomic resolution within species complexes
Daphnia subfossils from lake sediments are useful for exploring the impacts of environmental stressors on aquatic ecosystems. Unfortunately, taxonomic resolution of Daphnia remains is coarse, as only a small portion of the animal is preserved, and so the identification of daphniid subfossils typically relies upon postabdominal claws. Daphniid claws can be assigned to one of two species complexes: D. longispina or D. pulex. Both complexes contain species with differing environmental optima, and therefore improved taxonomic resolution of subfossil daphniid claws would aid paleolimnological analyses. To identify morphological features that may be used to help differentiate between species within complexes, we used species presence/absence data from net tows to select lakes in central Ontario (Canada) containing only a single species from a particular complex, then used remains preserved in surface sediments of these lakes to isolate four Daphnia species: D. ambigua and D. mendotae from the D. longispina complex, and D. pulicaria and D. catawba from the D. pulex complex. Our analyses demonstrate that, within the D. longispina complex, postabdominal claw length (PCL) and spinule length can be used to distinguish D. mendotae from D. ambigua. In addition, within the D. pulex complex, there are differences between D. pulicaria and D. catawba in the relative lengths of the proximal and middle combs on the postabdominal claw. However, the number of stout spines on the middle comb is an unreliable character for differentiating species. Overall, our data demonstrate that greater resolution within Daphnia species complexes is possible using postabdominal claws; however, the process is arduous, and applicability will likely decrease with the number of taxa present.
KeywordsDaphnia Paleolimnology Species complexes Identification guide Postabdominal claws
We thank Angelo Sorce and Kris Hadley for participation in the field work, as well as Allegra Cairns and Norman Yan of York University, and the rest of the CAISN sampling team, for providing modern-day daphniid species presence/absence data. We also thank two anonymous reviewers who improved the quality of the manuscript. This project was funded by NSERC grants to JPS and JBK, and an Ontario Premier’s Discovery Award to JPS.
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