Thermal variation and factors influencing vertical migration behavior in Daphnia populations

Stephen P. Glaholt*, Meghan L. Kennedy, Elizabeth Turner, John K. Colbourne, Joseph R. Shaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The antipredator behavior diel vertical migration (DVM), common in aquatic keystone species Daphnia, involves daily migration from warmer surface waters before dawn to cooler deeper waters after dusk. Plasticity in Daphnia DVM behavior optimizes fitness via trade-offs between growth, reproduction, and predator avoidance. Migration behavior is affected by co-varying biotic and abiotic factors, including light, predator cues, and anthropogenic stressors making it difficult to determine each factor's individual contribution to the variation in this behavior. This study aims to better understand this ecologically significant behavior in Daphnia by: (1) determining how Daphnia pulicaria thermal preferences vary within and among natural populations; (2) distinguishing the role of temperature verses depth in Daphnia vertical migration; and (3) defining how two anthropogenic stressors (copper and nickel) impact Daphnia migratory behavior.Simulated natural lake stratification were constructed in 8 L (0.5 m tall, 14.5 cm wide) water columns to monitor under controlled laboratory conditions the individual effects of temperature gradients, depth, and metal stressors on Daphnia vertical migration. Three major findings are reported. First, while no difference in thermal preference was found among the four populations studied, within lake populations variability among isolates was high. Second, decoupling temperature and depth revealed that depth was a better predictor of Daphnia migratory patterns over temperature. Third, exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of copper or nickel inhibited classic DVM behavior. These findings revealed the high variability in thermal preference found within Daphnia populations, elucidated the individual roles that depth and temperature have on migratory behavior, and showed how copper and nickel can interfere with the natural response of Daphnia to fish predator cues. Thus contributing to the body of knowledge necessary to predict how natural populations of Daphnia will be affected by climate related changes in lake temperatures and increased presence of anthropogenic stressors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
Early online date16 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Daphnia
  • Fish kairomone
  • Metal stress
  • Thermal variation
  • Vertical migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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