Information Last Reviewed Spring 2007
The spiny water flea is a tiny, predacious crustacean that competes with young perch and other small fish for prey, such as Daphnia spp. Significant adverse impacts have yet to be documented; however, the spiny water flea can be consumed only by larger predators due to the flea’s sharp spine. With this in mind, spiny water flea populations may remain high, leading to a decline in plankton populations, and thus altering food webs.
This species was previously known as Bythotrephes cederstroemi.
Hooks on caudal appendage distinguishes the spiny waterflea from similar species
(Image from: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3313_3677_8314-83004--,00.html)
Can reach densities as high as 125 individuals/meter in areas free of predators
Large tail prevents predation from smaller fish
Similar to adults
Feed primarily on other zooplankton
Opportunistic feeders that change their diet when prey availability decreases
Small crustaceans, especially species of Daphnia, serve as the main prey item in their native range
Similar to adults
Juveniles generally have fewer than 3-4 spines on their tail
Reach lengths of about 15 mm
Adult females are generally larger than males
Well-developed abdomen with a very long tail
Tail has three to four spines without a distinctive terminal loop
Fully developed parthenogenic individuals have three barbs on their tails
Fully developed sexually reproduced individuals have four barbs on their tails
Adult females have a brood pouch on their back
Looks similar to a ball of cotton when clumped on fishing line
Spiny waterflea collected on fishing line to form "cotton ball" appearance
(Image courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)
Most closely resembles Cercopagis pengoi the Fishhook Waterflea
Very long tail does not have a terminal loop
Maturity is quickly reached
At higher summer temperatures, individuals can reach sexual maturity in about 14 days
Populations are both sexual and parthenogenetic (females can reproduce without males)
Sexual reproduction increases their chances of surviving in variable and extreme weather conditions
Females with a full clutch weigh twice as much and have much higher predation rates. Predation on brooding females enhances dispersal of eggs
Females carry their young in a brood pouch located on their back
Eggs can remain dormant for long periods of time and hatch when environmental conditions become more favorable
Overwintering dormant eggs usually hatch when water temperatures reach 4°C
Dormant eggs can usually survive passage through the digestive tract of fish predators, further enhancing their ability to disperse
Grow quickly, often reaching maturity in as little as 14 days
Parthenogenic individuals develop through a red-eye into a black-eye stage before leaving the brood sac
Individuals undergo a series of quick molts, increasing in size and adding barbs to their long tail
Large oligotrophic lakes
Generally found in areas with very low salinity
Typically inhabit pelagic regions of lakes
Can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but generally found at temperatures between 5 and 30 deg C
Generally found in areas with low salinity
Can tolerate a wide range of salinity
Native to northern Europe and Asia
Originally found from Great Britain to the Bering Sea
Successfully expanded its range throughout European lakes
North American Distribution
First populations were established in Lake Ontario in 1982
Populations became established in all five Great Lakes by 1987
Currently found in lakes in the northern United States and in southern Canada
Established populations documented in the following states: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin
Probable Means of Introduction
Likely transported from Europe via ship ballast water
Continued spread is likely due to bait-bucket transportation and transportation aided by fishing lines, anchor lines, and boat props and hulls
Compete with many larval fish for food
Outcompete native zooplankton populations leading to drastic decline in native populations
In high abundances they can catch on fishing line, fish nets, and trawls forming a paste that may alter the success of these items
Serves as a food source for many fish species including yellow perch, walleye, white bass, lake herring, and deepwater sculpin
Increased ballast water control and regulations may reduce risk of future invasions
Increased public awareness about possible harmful effects of transporting bait water from one location to another
Wash boats with hot water to help prevent spread from one body of water to the next
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