Beyond Daphnia: a plea for a more inclusive and unifying approach to freshwater zooplankton ecology

Luc De Meester, Steven A. J. Declerck, Kemal Ali Ger* (Corresponding author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Zooplankton plays a pivotal role in lentic water bodies, linking planktonic primary producers to higher trophic levels and being a cornerstone of the planktonic food web of ponds and lakes. Because of its ease of culture, large size, rich ecology, abundance in northern temperate lakes where limnology is rooted, and the ability to work with clones, Daphnia has, in the last centuries grown to become a key model system in ecology, evolution, and ecotoxicology. Consequently, a vast majority of freshwater zooplankton ecology focuses on the role of Daphnia. While generating essential insights, this has also deviated attention from the broad ecological impact of other zooplankton. Here, we emphasize how other zooplankton taxa have an important impact in nature - often in qualitatively different ways than Daphnia. We illustrate this point by focusing on two key zooplankton functions (herbivory and stoichiometry) and suggest research to capitalize on the success story of mechanistic ecological, eco-evolutionary, and genomic Daphnia work to develop a richer set of model organisms. We currently have the tools to do so and integrating mechanistic insights in multispecies settings would foster a better understanding of the rich diversity and ecology of freshwater zooplankton.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2023


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