Density-dependent regulation of natural and laboratory rotifer populations

Terry W. Snell, Brian J. Dingmann, Manuel Serra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Density-dependent regulation of abundance is fundamentally important in the dynamics of most animal populations. Density effects, however, have rarely been quantified in natural populations, so population models typically have a large uncertainty in their predictions. We used models generated from time series analysis to explore the form and strength of density-dependence in several natural rotifer populations. Population growth rate (r) decreased linearly or non-linearly with increased population density, depending on the rotifer species. Density effects in natural populations reduced r to 0 at densities of 1-101-1 for 8 of the 9 rotifer species investigated. The sensitivities of these species to density effects appeared normally distributed, with a mean r=0 density of 2.3 1-l and a standard deviation of 1.9. Brachionus rotundiformis was the outlier with 10-100 x higher density tolerance. Density effects in laboratory rotifer populations reduced r to 0 at population densities of 10-100 ml-1, which is 104 higher than densities in natural populations. Density effects in laboratory populations are due to food limitation, autotoxicity or to their combined effects. Experiments with B. rotundiformis demonstrated the absence of autotoxicity at densities as high as 865 ml-1, a much higher density than observed in natural populations. It is, therefore, likely that food limitation rather than autotoxicity plays a major role in regulating natural rotifer populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-44
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Autotoxicity
  • Density-dependent
  • Food limitation
  • Growth rates
  • Models
  • Population regulation


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