Physical structure of lakes constrains epidemics in Daphnia populations

C. E. Cáceres, S. R. Hall, M. A. Duffy, A. J. Tessier, C. Helmle, S. MacIntyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parasites are integral parts of most ecosystems, yet attention has only recently focused on how community structure and abiotic factors impact host-parasite interactions. In lakes, both factors are influenced by habitat morphology. To investigate the role of habitat structure in mediating parasitism in the plankton, we quantified timing and prevalence of a common microparasite (Metschnikowia bicuspidata) in its host, Daphnia dentifera, in 18 lakes that vary in basin size and shape. Over three years, we found substantial spatial and temporal variation in the severity of epidemics. Although infection rates reached as high as 50% in some lakes, they did not occur in most lakes in most years. Host density, often considered to be a key determinant of disease spread, did not explain a significant amount of variation in the occurrence of epidemics. Furthermore, host resistance does not fully explain this parasite's distribution, since we easily infected hosts in the laboratory. Rather, basin shape predicted epidemics well; epidemics occurred only in lakes with steep-sided basins. In these lakes, the magnitude of epidemics varied with year. We suggest that biological (predation) and physical (turbulence) effects of basin shape interact with annual weather patterns to determine the regional distribution of this parasite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1438-1444
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2006


  • Daphnia dentifera
  • Disease epidemics
  • Host-parasite interaction
  • Indirect effects
  • Lake basin shape
  • Metschnikowia bicuspidata
  • Morphometry
  • Turbulence
  • Weather patterns
  • Zooplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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