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Data from: Life-history responses of a freshwater rotifer to copper pollution

Cite this dataset

Schanz, Federica R. et al. (2021). Data from: Life-history responses of a freshwater rotifer to copper pollution [Dataset]. Dryad.


In organisms with dormant stages, life-history responses to past pollution can be studied retrospectively. Here, we study such responses in a rotifer (Brachionus calyciflorus) from the once heavily copper-polluted Lake Orta (Italy). We extracted resting eggs from sediments, established clonal lineages from hatchlings, and exposed newborns of these lineages to one of three copper concentrations that each mimicked a specific period in the lake’s pollution history. For each rotifer, we daily collected life-table data. We then estimated treatment-specific vital rates and used a stage-structured population model to project population growth rate λ. We also estimated elasticities of λ to vital rates and contributions of vital rates to observed Δλ between copper treatments. As expected, λ decreased with increasing copper concentration. This decrease resulted mostly from a decline in juvenile survival rate (SJ) and partly from a decline in the survival rate of asexually reproducing females (SA). Maturation rate, and with one exception fecundity, also declined but did not contribute consistently to Δλ. λ was most elastic to SJ and SA, indicating that survival rates were under stronger selection than maturation rate and fecundity. Together, our results indicate that variation in juvenile survival is a key component in the rotifers’ copper response. The consistent decrease in SJ with increasing copper stress and the sensitivity of λ to that decrease also suggest that juvenile survival is a useful indicator of population performance under environmental pollution.


We exposed each experimental rotifer individually for the entire lifetime to either 0, 40, or 80 µg Cu L–1, added as copper sulphate pentahydrate, and a food density of 1 × 106 algal cells mL–1. We recorded daily whether a given rotifer was still alive, how many female offspring it had produced, and whether it was mictic or amictic.

Usage notes

“id” is rotifer identity; “run” is experimental run number; “population” (“contemporary”, “recovery”, “peak”) is population identity (post-pollution population, recovery population, peak-pollution population); “copper” is Cu concentration in µg per litre; “stage” (“juv”, “amictic_ad”, “mictic_ad”) is life stage (juvenile, amictic adult, mictic adult); “age” is rotifer age in days; “survival” (“1” or “0” mean the rotifer survived or died, respectively); “fecundity” is number of offspring; “NA”: not available.


Swiss National Science Foundation, Award: 31003A_182286

European Research Council, Award: 337785