Trait sorting in Daphnia colonising man-made lakes

Michael R. Allen, Ryan A. Thum, Jessica N. Vandyke, Carla E. Cáceres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used a zooplankton metacommunity to ask how dispersal, genetic drift and selection act to determine the local and regional distributions of trait variation. Since the formation of the lakes 80years ago, cladoceran species have sorted into local assemblages that cluster by lake depth. Given this species sorting, we ask whether intraspecific variation in an ecologically important phenotypic trait - body size - has sorted as well. We quantified changes in body size through time by measuring ephippia from D. pulicaria, D. dentifera and D. ambigua recovered from sediment cores from two lakes. We then estimated mean body size of contemporary populations of two competing species, Daphnia pulicaria and D. dentifera, in a laboratory common garden experiment. Finally, we used microsatellite loci to characterise genetic diversity and gene flow among local sites in the metacommunity. Body size was variable both within and among years for the three species of Daphnia examined using sediment cores. For two lakes where we examined body size distributions through time, we observed a significant shift in body size of the first species to arrive after colonisation by other Daphnia species, which suggests selection has occurred historically. Despite heritable variation in body size in the laboratory, evidence for trait sorting was only found for D. pulicaria, which was larger in deeper lakes. Mean body size varied among lakes, but did not sort relative to depth for D. dentifera. Microsatellite data indicated that neutral genetic diversity was low in the region; only 27% of the individuals assayed were unique multi-locus genotypes. We also found significant patterns of isolation by distance for both species. However, population structure was stronger in D. dentifera than in D. pulicaria. Hence, we conclude that a limited number of colonists have successfully invaded this metacommunity, and those genotypes arriving in this new region have experienced significant dispersal limitation among local sites. Overall, while dispersal and selection have clearly led to the development of predictable community assemblages related to depth in this metacommunity, the distribution of phenotypic traits within species can differ substantially even between two trophically similar species. Our results highlight the complex roles of colonisation history, dispersal, selection and stochasticity in determining inter- and intra-specific patterns in metacommunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1813-1822
Number of pages10
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Daphnia
  • Dispersal
  • Genetic drift
  • Metacommunity
  • Selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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