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Single dietary amino acids control resting egg production and affect population growth of a key freshwater herbivore


The enormous success of the genus Daphnia in freshwater ecosystems is at least partially due to their cyclical parthenogenetic life cycle, in which asexual and sexual reproduction alternate periodically. This temporal change between reproductive strategies allows for (1) rapid population growth via subitaneously developing eggs when environmental conditions are appropriate and (2) the maintenance of genetic diversity via sexual reproduction and the production of resting eggs when environmental conditions deteriorate. We show here that dietary amino acids are involved in triggering the switch between reproductive modes in Daphnia pulex. Supplementation experiments demonstrate that specific dietary amino acids, in particular arginine and histidine, avert crowding-induced resting egg production, enhance subitaneous reproduction by increasing algal food quality and, as a combined effect of both processes, increase population growth rates. These findings suggest that the availability of single dietary amino acids potentially affects the seasonal dynamics and long-term persistence of Daphnia populations in the field, which may have consequences for the efficiency of carbon transfer and thus the trophic structure of freshwater food webs.

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We thank C. Koppe for amino acid analyses. C. Gebauer, P. Merkel and S. Ballert provided technical and C. Kolb and F. von Netzer provided experimental assistance. We also thank K.-O. Rothhaupt, A. Wacker and S. Raub for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. The project was partially funded by the ‘Umwelt und Wohnen’ foundation, the Leibniz foundation and the University of Konstanz.

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Correspondence to Ulrike Koch.

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Communicated by Ulrich Sommer.

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Koch, U., Martin-Creuzburg, D., Grossart, H. et al. Single dietary amino acids control resting egg production and affect population growth of a key freshwater herbivore. Oecologia 167, 981–989 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2047-4

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  • Daphnia
  • Food quality
  • Reproductive mode
  • Parthenogenesis
  • Resting eggs