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Tracking the small with the smallest--using nanotechnology in tracking zooplankton.

  • Mercy Lard
  • Johan Bäckman
  • Maria Yakovleva
  • Bengt Danielsson
  • Lars-Anders Hansson
Publishing year: 2010
Language: English
Publication/Series: PLoS ONE
Volume: 5
Issue: 10
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Public Library of Science

Abstract english

A major problem when studying behavior and migration of small organisms is that many of the questions addressed for larger animals are not possible to formulate due to constraints on tracking smaller animals. In aquatic ecosystems, this problem is particularly problematic for zoo- and phytoplankton, since tracking devices are too heavy to allow the organism to act naturally. However, recent advances in nanotechnology have made it possible to track individual animals and thereby to focus on important and urgent questions which previously have not been possible to address. Here we report on a novel approach to track movement and migratory behavior of millimeter sized aquatic animals, particularly Daphnia magna, using the commercially available nanometer sized fluorescent probes known as quantum dots. Experimental trials with and without quantum dots showed that they did not affect behavior, reproduction or mortality of the tested animals. Compared to previously used methods to label small animals, the nano-labeling method presented here offers considerable improvements including: 24 h fluorescence, studies in both light and darkness, much improved optical properties, potential to study large volumes and even track animals in semi-natural conditions. Hence, the suggested method, developed in close cooperation between biologists, chemists and physicists, offers new opportunities to routinely study zooplankton responses to light, food and predation, opening up advancements within research areas such as diel vertical/horizontal migration, partial migration and other differences in intra- and interspecific movements and migration.


  • Ecology
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Biological Sciences


  • Centre for Animal Movement Research
  • ISSN: 1932-6203