Centennial clonal stability of asexual Daphnia in Greenland lakes despite climate variability

Maison Dane, Nicholas John Anderson, Christopher L. Osburn, John K. Colbourne, Dagmar Frisch

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Climate and environmental condition drive biodiversity at many levels of biological organization, from populations to ecosystems. Combined with paleoecological reconstructions, palaeogenetic information on resident populations provides novel insights into evolutionary trajectories and genetic diversity driven by environmental variability. While temporal observations of changing genetic structure are often made of sexual populations, little is known about how environmental change affects the long‐term fate of asexual lineages. Here, we provide information on obligately asexual, triploid Daphnia populations from three Arctic lakes in West Greenland through the past 200–300 years to test the impact of environmental change on the temporal and spatial population genetic structure. The contrasting ecological state of the lakes, specifically regarding salinity and habitat structure may explain the observed lake‐specific clonal composition over time. Palaeolimnological reconstructions show considerable regional environmental fluctuations since 1,700 (the end of the Little Ice Age), but the population genetic structure in two lakes was almost unchanged with at most two clones per time period. Their local populations were strongly dominated by a single clone that has persisted for 250–300 years. We discuss possible explanations for the apparent population genetic stability: (a) persistent clones are general‐purpose genotypes that thrive under broad environmental conditions, (b) clonal lineages evolved subtle genotypic differences unresolved by microsatellite markers, or (c) epigenetic modifications allow for clonal adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Our results motivate research into the mechanisms of adaptation in these populations, as well as their evolutionary fate in the light of accelerating climate change in the polar regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14178-14188
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
Early online date20 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2020


  • Greenland
  • asexual Daphnia
  • egg bank
  • lake sediment
  • palaeogenetic
  • palaeolimnology


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