Cladoceran crustaceans are an important component of zooplankton in a wide range of freshwater habitats. Although the ecological characteristics of several cladoceran species have been well studied, biogeographical studies have been hampered by problematic taxonomic affiliations. However, recently developed molecular techniques, provide a powerful tool to subject aquatic taxa to comparative analyses. Here we highlight recent molecular approaches in aquatic ecology by presenting a simple method of DNA preparation and PCR amplification of the mitochondrial DNA (16S rDNA) in species from nine different families within the cladocera. On a broad taxonomic scale, sequence analysis of this mtDNA fragment has been used to produce the first molecular based phylogeny of the cladocera. This analysis clustered the cladoceran families in a fashion similar to that suggested by previous systematic classifications. In a more detailed analysis of the family Daphniidae, nuclear randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD), mitochondrial restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and morphological analyses were combined to identify species and interspecific hybrids within the Daphnia galeata species complex across 50 lakes in 13 European countries and one lake in Africa. The study revealed interspecific hybridization and backcrossing between some taxa (D. cucullata and D. galeata) to be widespread, and species and hybrids to frequently occur in sympatry. Genetic, as well as morphological information, suggests the occurrence of D. hyalina outside the Holarctic. [KEYWORDS: microcrustaceans, Daphnia, evolution, interspecific hybridization, molecular systematics, aquatic ecology]
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Ecology
Journal publication date1998

ID: 175052