How well do laboratory experiments explain field patterns of zooplankton emergence?

Carla E. Cáceres, Michael S. Schwalbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. We conducted a laboratory experiment to explore potential mechanisms driving variation in zooplankton emergence from diapausing eggs observed in Oneida Lake, NY, U.S.A. We hypothesized that variation in timing of ice-out (date of thawing of ice) between 1994 and 1995, which resulted in variation in photoperiod-temperature cues, contributed to the differences in the observed field patterns. Environmental chambers were used to establish weekly photoperiod-temperature combinations that reproduced natural conditions in Oneida Lake in 1994 and 1995. In addition, a third treatment ('dark') exposed eggs only to the changes in temperature. We recorded zooplankton emergence for 2.5 simulated ice-free seasons. 2. Nine cladoceran taxa were found to hatch, but only Daphnia pulicaria in large numbers. Hatching of D. pulicaria was recorded throughout the season in the two light treatments and sporadically in the dark treatment. The early ice-out treatment had the highest emergence, followed by the late ice-out and dark treatments. Among taxa, there was temporal segregation with five hatching in the early weeks of sampling and two taxa hatching during the middle weeks. Alona hatched late in the first year, but earlier in the second year. 3. We compared our laboratory results of D. pulicaria hatching with the field data obtained by Cáceres (1998). Hatching was continuous in the laboratory, whereas a synchronous spring emergence was found in the field. However, in both the laboratory and the field, more D. pulicaria hatched under conditions reflecting ice-out occurring in March as opposed to April. Because differences in rates and timing of emergence can affect the population and community dynamics of pelagic systems, we suggest caution when applying laboratory results to field populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1189
Number of pages11
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001


  • Daphnia
  • Diapause
  • Dormancy
  • Egg bank
  • Ephippia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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