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Open Access Research article

Hybridizing Daphnia communities from ten neighbouring lakes: spatio-temporal dynamics, local processes, gene flow and invasiveness

Mingbo Yin12, Sabine Gießler2*, Johanna Griebel23 and Justyna Wolinska23

Author Affiliations

1 School of Life Science, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Handan Road 220, Shanghai, China

2 Department Biologie II, Evolutionsökologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Großhaderner Str. 2, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany

3 Department of Ecosystem Research, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Mueggelseedamm 301, 12587 Berlin, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:80  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-80

Published: 12 April 2014



In natural communities of cyclical parthenogens, rapid response to environmental change is enabled by switching between two reproduction modes. While long periods of asexual reproduction allow some clones to outcompete others, and may result in “clonal erosion”, sexual reproduction restores genetic variation in such systems. Moreover, sexual reproduction may result in the formation of interspecific hybrids. These hybrids can then reach high abundances, through asexual clonal reproduction. In the present study, we explored genetic variation in water fleas of the genus Daphnia. The focus was on the short-term dynamics within several clonal assemblages from the hybridizing Daphnia longispina complex and the impact of gene flow at small spatial scales.


Daphnia individuals belonged either to the parental species D. galeata and D. longispina, or to different hybrid classes, as identified by 15 microsatellite markers. The distribution and genotypic structure of parental species, but not hybrids, corresponded well with the geographical positions of the lakes. Within parental species, the genetic distance among populations of D. galeata was lower than among populations of D. longispina. Moreover, D. galeata dominance was associated with higher phosphorous load. Finally, there was no evidence for clonal erosion.


Our results suggest that the contemporary structure of hybridizing Daphnia communities from ten nearby lakes is influenced by colonization events from neighbouring habitats as well as by environmental factors. Unlike the parental species, however, there was little evidence for successful dispersal of hybrids, which seem to be produced locally. Finally, in contrast to temporary Daphnia populations, in which a decrease in clonal diversity was sometimes detectable over a single growing season, the high clonal diversity and lack of clonal erosion observed here might result from repeated hatching of sexually produced offspring. Overall, our study provides insights into spatio-temporal dynamics in a hybridizing Daphnia species complex in a recently established lake system, and relates genetic similarities of populations to a scenario of secondary invasion enhanced by environmental factors.

Cyclical parthenogenesis; Daphnia longispina complex; Clonal richness; Microsatellite; Population structure