Journal of Plankton Research
Diel vertical migration (DVM) of zooplankton is commonly considered an adaptation for feeding in food-rich and warm surface waters at night and avoiding visual predators during the day. However, the critical assessment of migration patterns frequently suggests that: (i) zooplankton may leave deeper waters with rich, deep-chlorophyll layers and move into the epilimnion where food resources are lower and/or (ii) the night-time increase in epilimnetic plankton abundance is not matched by a density decrease in deeper strata. To study these discrepancies, we measured DVM of zooplankton in a 1.3-ha Spanish karst lake (Laguna del Tejo) where the phytoplankton in the deep chlorophyll layer had been labelled with the isotopic tracer 15N. There were only limited changes in the vertical distribution patterns of rotifers and copepods over the diel cycle, but night-time biomass (mg L−1) of the cladoceran, Diaphanosoma brachyurum in the water column of the oxic zone increased 168% in the central area of the lake but there was not a parallel reduction in their density in the metalimnion or hypolimnion. Additionally, the isotopic signatures of the zooplankton in the epilimnion stayed constant from day to night, suggesting that there was little vertical migration. The results suggest that horizontal movements rather than vertical migration explain the increasing abundance of zooplankton in the central epilimnion of Laguna del Tejo during the night and that low food resources in this layer provide no incentive for DVM.
Armengol, X., W.A. Wurtsbaugh, A. Camacho, and M.R. Miracle. 2012. Pseudo-diel vertical migration in zooplankton: a whole-lake 15N tracer experiment. J. Plankton Res. 34(11): 976-986.