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Density, parasitism, and sexual reproduction are strongly correlated in lake Daphnia populations


Duffy, Meghan A. et al. (2022), Density, parasitism, and sexual reproduction are strongly correlated in lake Daphnia populations, Dryad, Dataset,


Many organisms can reproduce both asexually and sexually. For cyclical parthenogens, periods of asexual reproduction are punctuated by bouts of sexual reproduction, and the shift from asexual to sexual reproduction has large impacts on fitness and population dynamics. We studied populations of Daphnia dentifera to determine the amount of investment in sexual reproduction as well as the factors associated with variation in investment in sex. To do so, we tracked host density, infections by nine different parasites, and sexual reproduction in 15 lake populations of D. dentifera for three years. Sexual reproduction was seasonal, with male and ephippial female production beginning as early as late September and generally increasing through November. However, there was substantial variation in the prevalence of sexual individuals across populations, with some populations remaining entirely asexual throughout the study period and others shifting almost entirely to sexual females and males. We found strong relationships between density, prevalence of infection, parasite species richness, and sexual reproduction in these populations. However, strong collinearity between density, parasitism, and sexual reproduction means that further work will be required to disentangle the causal mechanisms underlying these relationships.


Methods are described in Gowler et al. Ecology and Evolution. Briefly, the data were collected by sampling lake populations in SE Michigan and then quantifying host density, reproductive status, and infection status. The processing included calculating area under the curve for density, sexual reproduction, and infection. Additional processing is done in the scripts associated with the dataset.

Usage Notes

People with questions about the dataset can contact Meghan Duffy (


National Science Foundation, Award: 1305836

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Award: GBMF9202

Division of Environmental Biology, Award: 1305836