Models of optimal annual routines and zooplankton adaptations to seasonal environments


Thursday, March 1, 2012
Redfield Auditorium - 12:00 Noon
Dr. Oystein Varpe
Norwegian Polar Institute

Animal behavior and life-history strategies have evolved in response to seasonal cycles in food availability, predation risk and abiotic conditions. A common and overarching adaptation for organisms in seasonal environments is the evolution of a regular schedule of activities over the annual cycle, an annual routine. Growth, energy storage and reproduction are among the most central activities and their timing has important fitness consequences. We wish to understand which schedules that are most successful in a given environment, that is, to predict the annual routine that maximizes fitness. Here I will illustrate how models of optimal annual routines can guide us in this endeavor. I present examples from models on high latitude copepods and explain how these models can be used to study phenology, life-history strategies, and population dynamics, and importantly, to predict responses to environmental change. Specific research questions include: i) what are the annual routine consequences of earlier food availability (primary production), and ii) what is the optimal annual routine when the food source has bimodal seasonality, such as when Arctic copepods feed on both ice algae and pelagic phytoplankton? Our findings lead to discussions of central concepts in ecology and evolution such as the match-mismatch hypothesis, state-dependence, parent offspring conflict, and the reproductive modes of capital and income breeding.