Jelly-like zooplankton turns Canadian lakes into clear goo

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

Some lakes in Ontario have experienced greatly-altered water chemistry in the past decades due to acid rain and human impacts. This acid reacts with calcium in soils surrounding the lakes, reducing the amount of calcium that makes it from the watershed into the lakes.  This is impacting Daphnia, a kind of zooplankton that incorporates calcium into their bodies.  As Daphnia numbers decrease, another species of zooplankton called Holopedium are thriving.  They use much less calcium, and coat themselves in gel to protect themselves from predation. These gooey Holopedium blobs are coating swimmers and could start clogging filtration systems for drinking water. They could also have a large impact on the food chain if fewer animals eat them compared to Daphnia.

Holopedium coating someone’s hand after dipping it into a lake.  Photo credit: Ron Ingram/Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.