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Journal Article

Daphnia: Model herbivore, predator and prey


Lampert,  Winfried
Department Ecophysiology, Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Lampert, W. (2006). Daphnia: Model herbivore, predator and prey. Polish Journal of Ecology, 54(4), 607-620.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-D93D-1
In the past 30 years, Daphnia has become a model organism in aquatic ecology. I review the changing concepts and paradigms in plankton ecology as reflected in the work on Daphnia. The availability of radiotracers favoured a new physiological approach that resulted in better energetic models and more reliable estimates of filtering rates. This led to deeper insights into the role of herbivore grazing on phytoplankton and microbial communities, and nutrient recycling. It provided a conceptual basis for general hypotheses on predictable seasonal successions (e.g. the PEG model). On the other hand, increasing knowledge about selective predation on zooplankton triggered population dynamic models and gave explanations for changing community structures. The Size-Efficiency-Hypothesis generated a framework for studies on trade-offs between competitive ability and susceptibility to predation. Daphnia was now in the centre of interaction-based concepts, being predator and prey at the same time. It was the backbone of practical applications of the theory in food-web manipulations. When ultimate factors came into the focus, Daphnia played an important role in explaining striking phenomena like diel vertical migration and cyclomorphosis. Its central position in food-webs, the unique propagation mode, easy cultivation and accessibility by molecular genetic methods made it a favourite object for studies in evolutionary ecology, concerning local adaptation, evolution of defences and life histories, induced phenotypic change, and genetic diversity. The large advantage of Daphnia over other biological model organisms is that its importance in pelagic freshwater systems is undoubtedly known. Hence there is a direct way of applying the results to ecological systems.