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Environ Pollut. 1995;90(2):263-7.

Is Daphnia magna an ecologically representative zooplankton species in toxicity tests?

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  • 1Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


Daphnia magna is commonly used in aquatic toxicity testing because of many characters that make it easy and economical to culture in the laboratory: it is relatively small, has short life cycle, high fecundity, and parthenogenetic reproduction. On the other hand, D. magna differs from other freshwater zooplankters in size, habitat, life-history, and ability to withstand fish predation. D. magna is a relatively large zooplankton species which makes it so vulnerable to fish predation that it is excluded from fish-inhabiting lakes. It occurs mainly in ephemeral habitats like small ponds and rockpools where vertebrate predators are rare. As a result, D. magna is seldom an indigenous species in lakes which receive pollutants, although representativeness is one important criterion for the standardised toxicity test species. Small ponds are unpredictable habitats with large temporal and spatial variability in abiotic factors. Adaptation to this natural abiotic stress may increase pollution tolerance. The life-history of D. magna also differs from that of lake-inhabiting cladocerans. Large daphnids produce many small neonates, whereas the opposite is true for small cladocerans. The large neonate size allows an earlier maturation of small cladocerans compared to daphnids. In a few comparative studies D. magna tended to be less sensitive to toxic substances than other cladocerans, and this may be due in part to life-history and size differences.

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