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Environmentally controlled phenotypic plasticity of morphology and polypeptide expression in two populations of Daphnia pulex (Crustacea: cladocera)

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  • Ecology
  • Geography


Two local Daphnia pulex populations which are subject to different types of seasonally varying predation pressures were studied. Individuals from both populations were raised in laboratory environments which simulated either summer or winter temperatures and photoperiods. When individuals from the same parthenogenetic clone were raised in different seasonal environments, each clone exhibited phenotypic variation specific to each of the seasonal environments. Intraclonal phenotypic plasticity was found in both populations at two different levels: variation in morphological characters, and variation in the expressed polypeptide phenotypes. Summer environmental conditions induced predator-resistant morphological traits, while winter conditions induced predator-susceptible ones. From 65% to 71% of over 200 major polypeptides were specifically expressed in either one seasonal environment or the other. This is evidence for the existence of environmentally induced switching between alternate developmental programs. Clones from the population with the least year to year predictability of seasonal predation pressure showed more interclonal variation in environment specific phenotypic expression than clones from the more predictably fluctuating environment.

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