Early presence of Bythotrephes cederströmii (Cladocera: Cercopagidae) in lake sediments in North America: evidence or artifact?

Nichole E. DeWeese, Elizabeth J. Favot, Donn K. Branstrator, Euan D. Reavie, John P. Smol, Daniel R. Engstrom, Heidi M. Rantala, Shawn P. Schottler, Andrew M. Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The spiny water flea (Bythotrephes cederströmii), a freshwater crustacean considered to be the world’s best-studied invasive zooplankter, was first recorded in North America in the Laurentian Great Lakes during the 1980s. Its arrival is widely considered to be the result of ocean-going cargo ships that translocated contaminated ballast water from Eurasia to the Great Lakes during the 1970–1980s. The subsequent first discovery of the species in inland lakes is consistent with the hypothesis that propagules dispersed initially from established Great Lakes populations. Here we present evidence of exoskeletal remains, including mandibles, tail spines, and resting eggs, in 210Pb-dated lake sediment cores, which suggests that B. cederströmii was already resident in four inland North American lakes (two in Minnesota, USA; two in Ontario, Canada) by at least the early 1900s. Densities of exoskeletal remains were low and relatively steady from first appearance until about 1990, after which time they increased in all cores. The earliest evidence that we found was a mandible at 33-cm depth (pre-1650) in the sediments of Three Mile Lake, Ontario, Canada. These unexpected findings challenge the current paradigm of B. cederströmii invasion, renew uncertainty about the timing and sequence of its colonization of North American lakes, and potentially question our ability to detect invasive species with traditional sampling methods. We attempted to eliminate errors in the dated stratigraphies of the exoskeletal remains that might have been introduced either methodologically (e.g., core-wall smearing) or naturally (e.g., bioturbation). Nonetheless, given the very low numbers of subfossils encountered, questions remain about the possible artifactual nature of our observations and therefore we regard our results as ‘preliminary findings’ at this time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-405
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 21 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Minnesota research was funded by grants to DKB, EDR, DRE, and HMR by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The Ontario research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) by grants to JPS and AMP.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Bythotrephes cederströmii
  • Invasion biology
  • Invasive species
  • Paleolimnology
  • Spiny water flea

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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