Saturday, February 16, 2013

Citizen Science: Water Fleas on E-Fauna BC

 Ian Gardiner with a Bull Trout Salvelinus confluentus in the East Kootenays

E-Fauna BC covers the faunal groups of British Columbia, including vertebrates (mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and ampibians), insects, and many other invertebrate groups that include arachnids (spiders and ticks), crustaceans (crabs, crayfish, cladocera, copepods etc.), cnidarians (jellyfish, sea anemones etc.), annelids (earthworms, leeches etc.), echinoderms, molluscs, porifera (sponges) and more. In addressing these groups in BC, we first work with group specialists to post species lists for the province, then begin to set up atlas pages and add photos. When photos come in, there are sometimes surprises, including new species for BC, and sometimes our photographers become specialists in groups and do much more.

One example of this is the work of Ian Gardiner, a photographer from Calgary, Alberta and retired statistician and IT analyst.  Ian has taken an interest in freshwater crustaceans and has been sampling lakes in BC near the Alberta border. First up for him were water fleas (Cladocerans), and his work has resulted in several new species for the province. As a citizen scientist, he has been working with Gordon Green (retired curator with the Royal BC Museum) to update the species checklist for BC, confirm identifcations and generally fill in photos for this group on E-Fauna.

Water fleas are an interesting group of freshwater crustaceans. Gordon writes about them on E-Fauna BC in his Introduction to the Cladocerans of British Columbia. He says: "Cladocerans are small crustaceans belonging to the orders, Anomopoda, Ctenopoda, Onychopoda or Haplopoda.  Commonly called water fleas, due to their small size and jerky swimming motion, cladocerans are extremely abundant in most freshwater habitats.  There are a few estuarine species but this group has not been successful in the oceans.  Some species are planktonic living in the open water of lakes, while others live on or near the bottom or on aquatic vegetation.  Some species are found primarily in small ponds or saline lakes which lack fish predators."

Water fleas are important in the ecosystem. Gordon also adds: "An important link in food chains of virtually every inland body of water, cladocerans convert phytoplankton, benthic plants and decaying organic matter into animal tissue that can be used by larger animals. In large lakes they are a major food source for many kinds of fish such as sticklebacks, minnows and young Sockeye salmon. Many aquatic insect larvae and other invertebrates also feed on cladocerans"

Water fleas are interesting biologically. They reproduce by parthenogensis, and eggs develop without fertilization under stable environmental conditions.  In unfavourable conditions, males will be produced. 

Between them, Gordon and Ian have now confirmed about 75 species of water fleas for BC and Ian continues to collect and photograph specimens.  You can view his photos here. They provide excellent technical illustrations for this group.

Ian is also working on other groups, including copepods. View his copepod photos here.

This sort of meticulous, well documented work begins to blur the lines between scientist and citizen scientist, and really adds to the significance of E-Fauna BC when we can present current research on a faunal group.

  Dunhevedia crassa, photo by Ian Gardiner

Holopedium gibberum, photo by Ian Gardiner

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.