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Zoology (Jena). 2002;105(1):15-23.

Water fleas (Daphnia magna) provide a separate ventilatory mechanism for their brood.

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Institut für Zoophysiologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany.


The planktonic filter feeder Daphnia magna depends on a steady oxygen supply by convection. In the ventral carapace chamber, this convection is established by the feeding current which is generated by the movement of the thoracic limbs. The present study revealed that this movement can cause an additional flow of medium which passes through the brood chamber of the animal. To visualise this current, ink or fluorescent microspheres were released by a microcapillary near the posterior opening of the brood chamber. The tracks of these probes were monitored by video microscopy. Digital motion analysis was used for the determination of flow velocity and flow rate. Ambient medium entered the brood chamber at the abdomen of the animal and moved then to the anterior end of the brood chamber before entering the ventral carapace chamber. Two horizontal lamellae, which are attached at both sides of the trunk and project laterally to contact the carapace walls, almost completely separate the dorsal brood chamber from the ventral carapace chamber. Water can only pass these barriers through small depressions in these lamellae at the level of the 3rd and 4th appendages. Female daphnids with embryos at late developmental stages showed more rapid water currents in the brood chamber than those with younger embryos. Moreover, animals showed higher flow rates when exposed to hypoxic conditions. As the oxygen uptake rate of older embryos is approximately three times higher than that of younger embryos, the enhanced brood chamber current could improve the oxygen availability for both the mother and its brood under conditions of reduced oxygen availability.


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