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Induced pigmentation in zooplankton: a trade-off between threats from predation and ultraviolet radiation

  • Lars-Anders Hansson
Publishing year: 2000
Language: English
Pages: 2327-2331
Publication/Series: Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Volume: 267
Issue: 1459
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is harmful to all life, and the ongoing depletion of the ozone layer is likely to affect interactions among both terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Some organisms have evolved adaptations to reduce radiation damage, such as the various types of protective pigmentation of freshwater zooplankton. However, strong pigmentation also increases vulnerability to visually hunting predators. Hence, where both UV radiation and predation are intense, zooplankton may be sandwiched between conflicting selective pressures: to be pigmented and to be transparent at the same time. Here, I show that the level of pigmentation in copepods is up to ten times higher in lakes without predatory fishes than where fishes are present, Moreover, animals from the same population exposed to either UV light or predator scent showed a 10% difference in pigmentation after only four days, suggesting that pigmentation is an inducible trait. Hence, individual copepods are not passive victims of selective predation or radiation damage, but adjust the level of pigmentation according to the prevailing threat. The ability to adjust pigmentation level rapidly may be especially useful in situations where risk assessment is difficult due to strong seasonal and spatial variation in risk variables, such as in Arctic regions. With progressive thinning of the ozone layer, the ability of some but not other organisms to adjust protection against UV radiation may lead to counter-intuitive, large-scale alterations in freshwater food webs.


  • Ecology


  • ISSN: 1471-2954
Lars-Anders Hansson
E-mail: lars-anders [dot] hansson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Aquatic ecology

+46 46 222 41 69






Research group

Aquatic Ecology

Other projects I´m involved in

Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

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