Genetic versus environmental influence on pigment variation in the ephippia of Daphnia pulicaria

Gretchen A. Gerrish, Carla E. Cáceres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. The dormant eggs of Daphnia (Crustacea: cladocera) are encased in a protective, chitonous casing known as an ephippium. Ephippia are pigmented with melanin, and the degree of pigmentation ranges from transparent to opaque. Variation in pigmentation exists within and across populations and species, raising questions about the factors that influence the natural distribution of pigmentation. 2. We used image analysis to quantify pigmentation in ephippial casings of Daphnia pulicaria that were produced both in the field and in the laboratory. The percentage of the surface area of ephippia that is darkly pigmented ranged from 0.5 to 99.5%. The range, mean and variance of ephippial pigmentation varied across our 11 study lakes. 3. Laboratory experiments compared clonal variation (five clones/lake) and population variation (five lakes) at three temperatures (15°C, 20°C and 25°C). The degree of pigment variation between clones was much greater than pigment variation between temperatures, indicating that there is a genetic component to pigmentation in the ephippia which is stronger than the effect of temperature. 4. Comparisons of pigment levels and lake characteristics were used to identify physical and biological factors associated with ephippial pigmentation. Investment in ephippial production was the strongest predictor with darker ephippia occurring more often in lakes with the highest ephippial production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1971-1982
Number of pages12
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Diapause
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Resting eggs
  • Zooplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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