In order to explore the behavioral mechanisms underlying aggregation of foragers on local resource patches, it is necessary to manipulate the location, quality and quantity of food patches. This requires careful control over the conditions in the foraging arena, which may be a challenging task in the case of aquatic resourceconsumer systems, like that of freshwater zooplankton feeding on suspended algal cells. We present an experimental tool designed to aid behavioral ecologists in exploring the consequences of resource characteristics for zooplankton aggregation behavior and movement decisions under conditions where the boundaries and characteristics (quantity and quality) of food patches can be standardized. The aggregation behavior of Daphnia magna and D. galeata x hyalina was tested in relation to i) the presence or absence of food or ii) food quality, where algae of high or low nutrient (phosphorus) content were offered in distinct patches. Individuals of both Daphnia species chose tubes containing food patches and D. galeata x hyalina also showed a preference towards food patches of high nutrient content. We discuss how the described equipment complements other behavioral approaches providing a useful tool to understand animal foraging decisions in environments with heterogeneous resource distributions.
Bukovinszky, T., Helmsing, N. R., Grau, R. A., Bakker, E. S., Bezemer, T. M., Vos, M., Uittenhout, H., & Verschoor, A. M. (2013). A device to study the behavioral responses of zooplankton to food quality and quantity. Journal of Insect Behavior, 26(4), 453-465. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10905-012-9366-0