Extinction hazards in experimental Daphnia magna populations: effects of genotype diversity and environmental variation.


Extinction is ubiquitous in natural systems and the ultimate fate of all biological populations. However, the factors that contribute to population extinction are still poorly understood, particularly genetic diversity and composition. A laboratory experiment was conducted to examine the influences of environmental variation and genotype diversity on persistence in experimental Daphnia magna populations. Populations were initiated in two blocks with one, two, three, or six randomly selected and equally represented genotypes, fed and checked for extinction daily, and censused twice weekly over a period of 170 days. Our results show no evidence for an effect of the number of genotypes in a population on extinction hazard. Environmental variation had a strong effect on hazards in both experimental blocks, but the direction of the effect differed between blocks. In the first block, variable environments hastened extinction, while in the second block, hazards were reduced under variable food input. This occurred despite greater fluctuations in population size in variable environments in the second block of our experiment. Our results conflict with previous studies, where environmental variation consistently increased extinction risk. They are also at odds with previous studies in other systems that documented significant effects of genetic diversity on population persistence. We speculate that the lack of sexual reproduction, or the phenotypic similarity among our experimental lines, might underlie the lack of a significant effect of genotype diversity in our study.

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