A three-dimensional perspective of Daphnia’s swimming behavior with and without predator cues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Behavioral adaptations play an important role in predator–prey interactions as they reduce predation risk. Prey organisms have therefore evolved a tremendous variability in behavioral adaptations. In case of small crustaceans of the genus Daphnia, which are common and important herbivores transferring energy from primary producers to higher trophic levels, such as predatory fish, and insects, altered migration patterns, swarming, or adaptive swimming speeds may increase survival rates. However, hitherto it has been difficult to analyze predator-induced behavioral adaptations as the small body size, as well as the low contrast between the transparent animals and their environment, most often impede behavioral movement analysis of individual animals. Therefore, we worked with a newly established technique providing higher contrast. We tagged daphniids with fluorescent nanoparticles and used a three-dimensional movement analysis system. We analyzed behavioral defense strategies of Daphnia clones from three species against different types of predators by measuring their behavior in presence and absence of predator cues. We analyzed swimming speed, depth selection, and motion patterns of Daphnia, as well as swarming behavior. We observed differences in the general swimming behavior in all analyzed aspects and show that daphniids change their behavioral strategies in the presence of predator cues, e.g., decrease their swimming speed as well as their vertical position or increase their nearest neighbor distance. Based on the observed changes in behavioral patterns, we conclude that the swimming behavior of daphniids may play an important role as inducible defense strategy that has the potential to improve prey survival chances.


External organisations
  • Ruhr-University Bochum
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1515-1525
Number of pages11
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul
Publication categoryResearch