Food nutrient availability affects epibiont prevalence and richness in natural Daphnia populations

Lien Reyserhove, Lore Bulteel, Jing Liu, Caroline Souffreau, Kristien I Brans, Jessie MT Engelen, Luc De Meester, Frederik Hendrickx, Koenraad Muylaert, Steven AJ Declerck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increased input of nutrients into biological systems has been shown to result in altered biotic interactions through changes in food availability. The aim of this study was to test for an association between phytoplankton nutrient content and epibiont variables in natural zooplankton populations. Via a field survey, we studied how a gradient in food quantity and quality impacted host population density and epibiont variables in Daphnia pulex. We found a significant decrease in epibiont prevalence and infracommunity richness, which could mainly be attributed to a changing phytoplankton N : P ratio (caused by P-limitation). We performed a lab experiment in which we exposed Daphnia magna to different algal nutrient ratios and the epibionts detected in the field study. P-limitation in the algae affected D. magna performance and resulted in similar trends of food quality effects in the epibiont variables. The experiment, however, also reflected subtle differences between different epibiont species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2529-2540
Number of pages12
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Isabel Vanoverberghe for technical assistance, Nico Helmsing and Erik Reichman for assistance with the stoichiometric analyses of the food quality treatments. This research benefited from stimulating discussions within IUP SPEEDY and FWO-network EVENET.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Limnology and Oceanography published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.


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