Is competition an interaction as relevant as predation for tropical planktonic cladocerans?

Tania Cristina dos Santos Ferreira, Marlene Sofia Arcifa, Andrés Ricardo Domingos


Abstract: Aim: The relevance of competition and predation for the two most abundant and frequent cladoceran populations, the medium-sized Ceriodaphnia richardi Sars 1901 and the large-sized Daphnia gessneri Herbst 1967, in a tropical shallow lake. Methods: Laboratory experiments and weekly samplings in the lake for a year were used to evaluate: density fluctuations and reproduction; predation on juveniles and adults by larvae of Chaoborus brasiliensis Theobald 1901; competitive interactions and possible implications of competition and predation on the fluctuations in the lake. Juveniles and adults of both cladocerans were offered to instar IV of chaoborid, for testing selective predation in laboratory experiment. Competitive interaction between the two cladocerans was tested in experiments, with high (0.70 mg C.L-1) and low (0.25 mg C.L-1) concentrations of the edible chlorophycean Desmodesmus spinosus Chodat. Results: C. richardi and D. gessneri were more abundant in the cool season, when their densities were inversely correlated, and when invertebrate predators, C. brasiliensis and the water mite Krendowskia sp., were less abundant. Despite higher concentrations of food and larger number of offsprings produced by the cladocerans in the warm season in the lake, their densities were lower, coincident with the increase of invertebrate predators, mainly chaoborid. C. brasiliensis preyed on adult C. richardi and on young D. gessneri. In the competition experiments, the densities and the population growth rates of C. richardi were higher than those of D. gessneri. The competition results support the “small body size” and the “r-max” hypotheses. The exclusion of D. gessneri by C. richardi occurred only in experimental conditions, while they coexist in the lake, but without reaching their carrying capacity. Conclusions: Predation is the key factor influencing the populations of cladocerans, whereas competition seems to play a secondary role, probably restricted to some periods of lower food concentration in the cool season.


Experiments, Chaoborus, Daphnia gessneri, Ceriodaphnia richardi, field study

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