Daphnia – the water flea – is not a lizard and not even a vertebrate. But it is a beautiful creature that is an outstanding study system for addressing some of the main problems that we are interested in, such as the role of plasticity and non-genetic inheritance in evolution. We are particularly attracted to the ability to study experimentally how animals cope with, and adapt to, novel environments.
Daphnia live in lakes, ponds, and pools and research for more than 150 years have revealed that it has an extraordinary ability to rapidly adapt to different conditions. By using experimental set-ups where we can expose individuals to different conditions across generations we can establish how individuals accommodate environmental change – from gene expression to phenotype – and the transgenerational consequences of plasticity. This will allow us to put to the test theories of how development affects evolution and vice versa.
Daphnia is a long-term study system in the Aquatic Ecology unit at Lund and we work together with them and with Stewart Plaistow at Liverpool.