Zooplankton may not disperse readily in wind, rain, or waterfowl
Zooplankton, and especially rotifers, have long been thought to be readily dispersed by wind, rain and animals (especially waterfowl). Given that premise, local processes (tolerance to abiotic conditions, biotic interactions) have been the main focus of ecological studies. We tested the premise of high dispersal rates by incubating particulates collected with windsocks and rain samplers at two sites over 1 year. The sites were 80 km apart and differed in proximity to water and surrounding terrain. We also incubated fecal material of wild ducks. Pond sediments were identically incubated as a test of incubation method. Only bdelloid rotifers were collected in wind samples, and only four rotifer species were collected in rain samples: Lecane leontina, Lecane closterocerca, Keratella cochlearis, and a bdelloid. No metazoans were found in incubated duck feces, yet incubated pond sediments yielded 11 rotifer, one copepod, four cladoceran, and three ostracod species. Our results do not support the premise of readily dispersed zooplankton. If zooplankton dispersal is infrequent and limited to few species, a series of other questions should be addressed on processes regulating zooplankton population dynamics and community composition.
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