, Volume 844, Issue 1, pp 67–82 | Cite as

Modeling the life history of sessile rotifers: larval substratum selection through reproduction

  • Andrea N. Young
  • Rick Hochberg
  • Elizabeth J. Walsh
  • Robert L. WallaceEmail author


Although the theoretical underpinnings of habitat selection by marine invertebrate larvae have been well studied, this theory has been neglected for freshwater sessile rotifers. To study how substratum selection affects larval fitness, we developed a dynamic model to examine influences of three elements of larval life (survival, substratum acceptance, substratum encounter probability) and substratum-dependent reproductive success in adults. Monte Carlo simulation models were run using an initial cohort of larvae. Our Basic Model assessed fitness as simply settling on a substratum using only the larval elements and revealed statistically greatest fitness when swimming speed decreased with age and when substratum preference was constant or exhibited mid-age competence. The Reproductive Model assessed fitness (mean number of offspring adult−1) as a function of substratum. We compared reproduction on neutral substrata to substrata where quality varied and separately as a function of adult population density: coloniality (synergism) versus competition. The model showed fitness was statistically greatest when larval swimming speed decreased with age and when coloniality increased reproduction. We also explored conditions where populations of planktonic adults could survive. The model is applicable to sessile organisms and may be modified to examine other life history activities including selection of mates, prey, or territory.


Behavior Dynamic modeling Gnesiotrocha Planktonic Substratum-dependent reproduction Rotifera 



We thank Diego Fontaneto, Holger Herlyn, Mark Kainz, Menuma Khan, McKenzie Lamb, George Wittler, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments that improved this manuscript. This research was supported in part by funds for faculty development (Ripon College), from the National Science Foundation: DEB 1257068 (EJW), 1257110 (RH), and 1257116 (RLW), and by Grant 5G12MD007592 from the National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesRipon CollegeRiponUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts at LowellLowellUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyRipon CollegeRiponUSA

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