The effect of lake sediment on the hatching success of Daphnia ephippial eggs
A large proportion of lake-Daphnia ephippia which are shed by females in the water column sink to the bottom, where they form an assemblage of dormant stages known as an egg bank. Although the quantity of zooplankton eggs in such assemblages may exceed tens of thousands per square meter, the annual hatch from this bank is usually extremely low (from zero to a few dozens animals per square meter per year). This low-hatching phenomenon may be caused by isolation from hatching stimuli by water or sediment layers, a mechanical barrier formed by sediment that does not allow hatchlings to reach the water, or by a bet-hedging strategy of the resting eggs. The aim of our study was to determine the extent to which coverage by lake sediment may affect the hatching of Daphnia dormant eggs. The ephippia of lake-Daphnia (longispina species complex), covered by sterilized lake sediment of different thicknesses (0, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2 and 4 cm; 4 replicates per treatment), were incubated for 8 weeks in lab controlled conditions. The results indicate that even the thinnest tested layer (0.25 cm) may completely inhibit hatching of ephippial eggs. A few Daphnia neonates were observed in two (of five) sediment treatments, while dozens of animals hatched in the control one. In the second experiment we determined that the sediment sterilization process did not affect the hatching proportion of ephippial eggs (when compared to the treatment with unsterilized sediments). We hypothesize that the observed inhibition of Daphnia hatching in the main experiment, which may cause a serious problem for Cladoceran populations in lakes where no sediment mixing occurs, may be caused by low light intensity, anoxic conditions or a physical barrier created by the sediment.
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