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Daphnia middendorffiana
Phylum Arthropoda
Subphylum Crustacea
Class Branchiopoda
Suborder Cladocera
Family Daphniidae
Ecology and Behavior
  • Carapace pigmented
  • Gape between ventral margin of head and carapace widens as individual becomes older (2)
Similar Species
    D. middendorffiana have similar morphological features with D. pulex, resulting in uncertainty as to the relationship between the two species (3).
Geographic Distribution

    D. middendorffiana distributions are circumpolar extending southward into the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Coastal mountain ranges in North America and the Alps in Europe (3).

    This species has been found in the highly productive, Los Juncos Pond in Argentina (4); oligotrophic Toolik Lake and tundra ponds in Alaska and waterbodies in Sweden (5)(6)(7); Rocky Mountain ponds (1) and oligotrophic, alpine Pipit Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada (3).

Reported Habitats

    Found at extreme high latitudes and enriched polar lakes and ponds (2); often in semi-permanent, shallow, fishless bodies of water (4).

    D. middendorffiana is eurythermal but has a thermal range for respiration, approximately 5 degrees C lower than that for temperate zone Daphnia spp. (6).

Food and Feeding Behavior
    D. middendorffiana can occur in Arctic lakes and ponds with low phytoplankton concentrations(3).
Predation on Daphnia
  • D. middendorffiana is absent from deep lakes because it is a large daphniid and easily seen by visual predators such as fish (3). However, an unpigmented population of D . middendorffiana occurs in Toolik Lake , a deep arctic lake near the Brooks Range in Alaska (Buchanan & Haney, unpub). In populations in the Southern Andes D. middendorffiana has three distinct growth stages which relate to spine length. The spine remains consistently long in juveniles, reduces rapidly in the transitional stage and remains consistently shorter in the adult stage. In individuals less than 100? µg, the tail spine grows at the same rate as other body parts. Between 100? µg and 300? µg, body growth remains constant in all dimensions except for a rapid decrease in spine length. In individuals heavier than 300? µg, growth continues in all dimensions except for spine length which remains short (4).
  • D. middendorffiana is preyed upon year round by Parabroteas sarsi, a predaceous copepod in the fishless Los Juncos Pond, Southern Andes (9). D. middendorffiana resisted predation from P. sarsi by developing a long spine in the juveniles and large body size in the adults (9).
  • D. middendorffiana is preyed upon by flamingos, Phoenicoptherus chilensis, in Los Juncos Pond, Argentina during spring and summer. The development of a flatter body form in spring and summer allow D. middendorffiana to pass through the filter mechanisms thus protecting D. middendorffiana from predation by vertebrate predators such as flamingos (1).
  • Heterocope septentrionalis and D. middendorffiana usually co-occur in arctic ponds and dominate the waterbodies in which they are present. Adult D. middendorffiana appear to be “practically invulnerable” to H. septentrionalis predation but the early instars are extremely vulnerable. D. middendorffiana emerge earlier than H. septentrionalis, allowing the first generation to reach adult size before H. septentrionalis does (7).
  • The dark carapace of this species may contribute to its predation by the Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), a shore bird that feeds in shallow tundra ponds (8).
  • In Rocky Mountain ponds, D. middendorffiana is preyed upon by Diaptomus shoshone (2).
    In Arctic ponds where H. septentrionalis is not present, D. pulex or Bosmina will be the likely dominant species (7). H. septentrionalis is 40 times more likely to capture D. pulex than D. middendorffiana. A possible explanation for resistance to predation is the strong carapace of D. middendorffiana protects the zooplankton from predators that bite parts off its prey rather than engulfing prey intact (7).

    In a study by Dodson (1984), the carapace strength of D. middendorffiana was approximately 3.1 times stronger than the carapace of comparably sized D. pulex (1).

    D. middendorffiana has a lower reproductive rate than D. pulex. This may be a result of energy expenditure for the development of a stronger carapace and larger body size to avoid capture by H. septentrionalis (2).

Additional Pictures
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(1) Dodson, S.I. 1984. Predation of Heterocope septentrionalis on Two Species of Daphnia: Morphological Defenses and Their Cost. Ecology. 65: 1249-1257.

(2) Haney, J.F. and C. Buchanan . 1987. Distribution and biogeography of Daphnia in the arctic. In Peter, R.H. and DeBernardi, R. (eds), Daphnia . Mem. Ist. Ital. Idrobiol. 45: 77-105.

(3) Wilhelm F.M., A.K. Hardie, A.S. McNaught and S.L. Clare. 1998. Large Suprabenthic Daphnia middendorffiana from an Alpine Lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Canadian Field-Naturalist 112: 419-424.

(4) Vega M.P. and A. Clause. (2000). Morphometry and Cyclomorphosis in Daphnia middendorffiana from a Fishless Pond of the Southern Andes. Journal of Freshwater Ecology. 15 (3): 329-338. Oikos Publishers.

(5) Peterson, B.J., J.E. Hobbie, and J.F. Haney. (1978). Daphnia Grazing on Natural Bacteria. Limnol. and Oceanogr. 23 (5): 1039-1044.

(6) Yurista, P.M. (1999) Temperature-dependent energy budget of an Arctic Cladoceran,
Daphnia middendorffiana.  Freshwater Biology. 42(1): 21-34.

(7)  Luecke, C. and W.J. O'Brien. (1983). The Effect of Heterocope Predation on Zooplankton Communities in Arctic Ponds. Limnol.and Oceanogr. 28(2): 367-377. American Society of Limnology and Oceanography.

(8)  Dodson, S.I. and D.L. Egger. (1980). Selective feeding of Red Phalaropes on zooplankton of arctic ponds. Ecology 61: 755-763.

(9)  Vega, M.P. and A. Clausse. (1998) Hydrodynamic Characteristics of Daphnia middendorffiana. International Review of Hydrobiology 83(4): 267-277.