The physiological ecology of Daphnia I: development of a model of growth and reproduction

E. McCauley, W.W. Murdoch, R.M. Nisbet, William Gurney

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153 Citations (Scopus)


Patterns of growth, development, and reproduction have been observed in many Daphnia species, and there have been some attempts to explain them using models that take into account rates of intake, assimilation, maintenance, and energy allocation rules. We show, however, that existing models cannot capture some essential features of individual growth, especially under conditions of low food supply that are typical of field conditions. These features include: (1) a sigmoid growth curve, and (2) the time to starvation or the performance of individuals during periods of low food availability. We propose and test a new hypothesis based on the idea that allometric relationship for physiological rates are stage dependent. We show that ingestion rates increase much faster with juvenile body size than with adult body size for several Daphnia species. Existing data suggest that allometric relationships for respiration are not stage dependent, and we derive a maintenance function that takes into account overheads associated with growth and basal metabolic rates. The new allometric relationships for ingestion and maintenance, along with an accurate description of the onset of maturity and partitioning of energy between growth and reproduction, can account for the sigmoid growth pattern displayed by Daphnia. Existing models cannot explain Daphnia's performance when food availability is low, and this led us to examine how Daphnia stores energy and uses reserves. Our review synthesizes disparate observations on the structure and dynamics of reserves, and forms the basis for a new model of Daphnia pulex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-715
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1990


  • growth patterns
  • physiological ecology
  • Daphnia
  • growth model

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