TitleFreshwater copepods and rotifers: predators and their prey
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsBrandl, Z

Three main groups of planktonic animals inhabit the limnetic zone of inland waters and compete for common food resources: rotifers, cladocerans and copepods. In addition to competition, their mutual relationships are strongly influenced by the variable, herbivorous and carnivorous feeding modes of the copepods. Most copepod species, at least in their later developmental stages, are efficient predators. They exhibit various hunting and feeding techniques, which enable them to prey on a wide range of planktonic animals from protozoans to small cladocerans. The rotifers are often the most preferred prey. The scope of this paper is limited to predation of freshwater copepods on rotifer prey. Both cyclopoid and calanoid copepods (genera Cyclops, Acanthocyclops, Mesocyclops, Diacyclops, Tropocyclops.. Diaptomus, Eudiaptomus, Boeckella, Epischura and others) as predators and several rotifer species (genera Synchaeta, Polyarthra, Filinia, Conochilus, Conochiloides, Brachionus, Keratella, Asplanchna and others) as prey are reported in various studies on the feeding relationships in linmetic communities. Generally, soft-bodied species are more vulnerable to predation than species possessing spines or external structures or loricate species. However, not only morphological but also behavioural characteristics, e.g., movements and escape reactions, and temporal and spatial distribution of rotifer species are important in regulating the impact of copepod predation. The reported predation rates are high enough to produce top-down control and often achieve or even exceed the reproductive rates of the rotifer populations. These findings are discussed and related to the differences between the life history strategies of limnetic rotifer species, with their ability to quickly utilize seasonally changing food resources, and adjust to the more complicated life strategies of copepods.