Daphnia lumholtzi G.O. Sars, 1885

Common Name: A waterflea

Synonyms and Other Names:

water-flea, water flea

Tom FerroCopyright Info

Keara Stanislawczyk, 2016Copyright Info

Identification: The most distinguishing characteristics of this daphnia are the long helmet and tail spines. The helmet is much larger than the native species and the tailspine is normally as long as the body length. Other distinct characteristics are the fornices that extend to a sharp point instead of being rounded and the ventral carapace margin which has approximately 10 prominent spines (Havel and Hebert 1993).

Size: 3.5 mm in length

Native Range: Tropical and subtropical lakes in east Africa, east Australia, and the Asian subcontinent of India (Havel and Hebert 1993). 

Great Lakes Nonindigenous Occurrences: Daphnia lumholtzi has been detected in 56 reservoirs in the southern and midwestern United States. The earliest record is from Texas in 1990 (Havel, pers. comm.). It has since been found in localized waters leading into major river drainages such as the: Arkansas, Cumberland, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, South Atlantic-Gulf, Tennessee, and Texas-Gulf. Occurrences of D. lumholtzi in these waters fall in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah (Havel and Shurin 2004; D. Jackson; J.A. Stoeckel; M.A. Pegg; J.S. Kuwabara). In August of 1999 it was discovered for the first time in the Great Lakes, Lake Erie, just north of Lakeside, Ohio (Muzinic 2000). 

Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Daphnia lumholtzi are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Michigan200720071Lake St. Clair
Minnesota200520051St. Louis
Ohio199920021Lake Erie

Table last updated 9/30/2019

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for areas where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Ecology: It is most likely that D. lumholtzi has become a successful invader because of its ability to avoid predation, not because it is a better competitor for the available food supply. Stomach samples of fish from Norris Reservoir contained no D. lumholtzi (Goulden et al. 1995). Work and Gophen (1999) note three aspects of D. lumholtzi that have most likely contributed to its success as an invader in North America. First, due to its tropical to subtropical native range, D. lumholtzi is adapted to higher temperatures than is native Daphnia. Second, D. lumholtzi is adapted to disturbed areas, giving it an invasion advantage (according to invasion theory). Third, the long helmet and tail spine helps D. lumholtzi avoid predation.

Like other Daphnia, D. lumholtzi produces ephippia (resting eggs). All ephippia are resistant to adverse environmental conditions and can lay dormant in sediment for long periods of time delaying hatching until optimal conditions are present. The ephippia of D. lumholtzi have hairs and spines that could grip boats or other objects and thus aid dispersal (Dzialowski et al. 2000).

Means of Introduction: It is uncertain how D. lumholtzi was introduced into the U.S. It is suspected that it may have been transported with shipments of Nile perch from Lake Victoria in Africa where it is a dominant zooplankter. Nile perch was originally introduced into Texas as early as 1983 (Havel and Hebert 1993). The continuing discovery of D. lumholtzi in new locations could be due to contaminated stockings of fish through international commercial trade. At the same time, the close proximity of affected reservoirs in Missouri and in Texas might lead to the conclusion that D. lumholtzi may have spread by recreational boating from the initially infested reservoirs. 

Dzialowski et al. (2000) found that non-human dispersal mechanisms had little to do with the spread of D. lumholtzi in Kansas. D. lumholtzi was not detected in small ponds inaccessible to boats, even though the ponds were within watersheds where D. lumholtzi was established (Dzialowski et al. 2000). Because of rapid and widespread introductions, D. lumholtzi may become a dominant zooplankter in the southern U.S. (Havel et al. 1995).

Status: Daphnia lumholtzi has been collected for several consecutive years in Norris Reservoir (part of the Tennessee River system in Tennessee) and in several reservoirs in Missouri. The range of D. lumholtzi is expanding throughout eastern Kansas (Dzialowski et al. 2000)

Great Lakes Impacts: Current research on the environmental impact of Daphnia lumholtzi in the Great Lakes is inadequate to support proper assessment.

Daphnia lumholtzi has been known to invade ecosystems rapidly (Havel and Medley 2006); as a result, much research exists on this daphnid’s invasion success (e.g., Acharya et al. 2006, Frisch and Weider 2010, Lennon et al. 2003). However, studies of its impacts are limited, especially in the Great Lakes.

In situ research comparing native Daphnia spp. to the exotic D. lumholtzi has found that competition between these species is lower than expected. Daphnia lumholtzi is a tropical species and is adapted to warmer temperatures than native North American Daphnia. Thus, D. lumholtzi population sizes tend to increase in late summer when native Daphnia populations have been historically low. As a result, D. lumholtzi may be filling a vacant "temporal niche" in the warmer summer months (Dzialowski et al. 2000, East et al. 1999, Goulden et al. 1995, Johnson and Havel 2001, Work and Gophen 1999).

In competitive experiments between D. lumholtzi and Great Lakes native D. pulex, Dobberfuhl and Elser (2002) found that in tanks with mixed populations, D. lumholtzi productivity dropped to 55% of its control value, while D. pulex productivity dropped to just 17% of its control value. Combined productivity of the daphnids dropped by over 50%, indicating that the presence of D. lumholtzi could facilitate competitive exploitation and have adverse impacts on overall productivity of the zooplankton community. In this regard, research by Dzialowski (2010) suggests that some Daphnia species are more vulnerable to competition with D. lumholtzi (e.g., D. parvula and Ceriodaphnia dubia were more affected than D. magna).

By occupying a niche that was previously unexploited by Daphnia spp., D. lumholtzi has been hypothesized to compete with non-daphnid zooplankton (Dzialowski et al. 2000). One such zooplankter is Diaphanasoma, whose population size was significantly lower in Kansas reservoirs following D. lumholtzi invasion (Dzialowski et al. 2000).

If D. lumholtzi outcompetes native zooplankton populations during their normal peak abundance in late summer, this may adversely impact planktivorous fish relying on that critical food source but unable to tolerate D. lumholtzi’s spines. Larval and juvenile stages of fish are more likely to be unable to consume D. lumholtzi due to gape (mouth-size) limitation (Kolar and Wahl 1998).

Soeken-Gittinger et al. (2009) found that the density of D. lumholtzi in some parts of the Illinois River was larger than the density of all other native zooplankton combined. High densities appeared to be correlated with high temperatures and increased inorganic sediment suspension, suggesting that areas in the Great Lakes with these conditions could face the greatest impacts (Soeken-Gittinger et al. 2009).

There is little or no evidence to support that Daphnia lumholtzi has significant socio-economic impacts in the Great Lakes.

Current research on the beneficial effect of Daphnia lumholtzi in the Great Lakes is inadequate to support proper assessment.

When juvenile fish attain a size capable of consuming D. lumholtzi, the fish can grow more rapidly and more easily avoid predation. This is particularly advantageous during the summer months, when D. lumholtzi presents itself as a larger prey item than would otherwise occur in the zooplankton. Silverside (Menidia beryllina) may be able to use this new prey item and survive longer during their late summer spawning period (Leinesch and Gophen 2001). The findings of Lemke et al. (2003) support this prediction, observing an increased consumption of D. lumholtzi in four fish species of Lake Chautauqua, Illinois (blue gill Lepomis macrochirus, white bass Morone chrysops, white crappie Pomoxis annularis, and black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus), as fish size increased.

This species is a common research subject, as scientists have been able to track its spread since establishment and to evaluate factors of its invasion success (Havel and Herbert 1993, Havel and Medley 2006, Havel et al. 2005, Work and Gophen 1999). Daphnia lumholtzi has also been studied for its unique ability to proliferate during high cyanobacterial growth, a time when few other daphnids are present (Pattinson et al. 2003, Semyalo et al. 2009).

Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes)
In Wisconsin, Daphnia lumholtzi is a prohibited invasive species (Wis. Admin. Code § NR 40.04), meaning that it is unlawful to transport, possess, transfer, or introduce the species within or into the state without a permit as defined under Wis. Admin. Code § NR 40.06.

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Daphnia lumholtzi is preyed upon by a variety of zooplanktivorous fishes, including inland silversides, Menidia beryllina, in Lake Texoma, OK-TX, and bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), white bass (Morone chrysops), white crappie (Pomoxis annularis), and black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) in Lake Chautauqua, IL (Lienesch and Gophen 2001, Lemke et al. 2003).  The degree to which these fishes may be able to control Daphnia lumholtzi populations is not certain. 

D. lumholtzi is likely transferred through anthropogenic vectors, including on recreational boats (Frisch et al. 2013). Its resting eggs (ephippia) feature a long point and hairs on the margin that serve as hooks, possibly aiding in attachment to boats or macrophytes caught on boats (Dzialowski et al. 2000). Therefore, the same precautions recommended to prevent the spread of more commonly known waterfleas should be taken to help prevent D. lumholtzi distribution, namely cleaning all aquatic/fishing/boating equipment, including downrigger lines and monofilament on reels, using high pressure (>250 psi) or hot (>50°C) water after each use (Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program).
While D. lumholtzi is not listed as a target species by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (USACE GLMRIS), the methods suggested to control spiny and fishhook waterfleas in aquatic pathways would likely control D. lumholtzi as well. Electron beam irradiation has been used to control microorganisms in aquatic pathways by exposing water to low doses of radiation using gamma-sterilizers or electron accelerators, breaking down DNA in living organisms while leaving behind no by-products (GLMRIS 2012). Ultraviolet (UV) light can also effectively control microorganisms, in water treatment facilities and narrow channels, where UV filters can be used to emit UV light into passing water, penetrating cell walls and rearranging DNA of microorganisms (GLMRIS 2012).

There are no known chemical control methods for this species

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.

Remarks: Nutrient and resource levels in lakes likely play a large role in the presence and spread of D. lumholtzi throughout the United States, though research on mechanism is unclear. Dzialowski et al. (2000) suggested that low resource (algae) levels aid D. lumholtzi invasion because it is better able to take advantage of low quality food resources than small competitors, but Havel et al. (1995) found that reservoirs invaded by D. lumholtzi had much higher levels of nutrients than non-invaded reservoirs. Further research is warranted to clarify discrepancies.


References: (click for full references)

Acharya, K., J.D. Jack, and A.S. Smith. 2006. Stoichiometry of Daphnia lumholtzi and their invasion success: Are they linked? Archiv für Hydrobiologie 165(4): 433-453.

Dzialowski, A.R., W.J. O'Brien, and S.M. Swaffar. 2000. Range expansion and potential dispersal mechanisms of the exotic cladoceran Daphnia lumholtzi. Journal of Plankton Research 22(12): 2205-2223.

East, T.L., K.E. Havens, A.J. Rodusky, and M.A. Brady. 1999. Daphnia lumholtzi and Daphnia ambigua: population comparisons of an exotic and a native cladoceran in Lake Okeechobee, Florida. Journal of Plankton Research 21(8): 1537-1551.

Frisch, D., and L.J. Weider. 2010. Seasonal shifts in genotype frequencies in the invasive cladoceran Daphnia lumholtzi in Lake Texoma, U.S.A. Freshwater Biology 55(6): 1327-1336.

Goulden, C.L., D. Tomljanovich, D. Kreeger, and E. Corney. The invasion of Daphnia lumholtzi Sars (Cladocera, Daphniidae) into a North American reservoir. Pages 9-38 In: Hamilton, S.W., D.S. White, E.W. Chester, and A.F. Scott (eds.). 1995. Proceedings of the sixth symposium on the natural history of the lower Tennessee and Cumberland River Valleys. The Center for Field Biology, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee.

Havel, J.E. - Missouri State University, Springfield, MO.

Havel, J.E., and P.D.N. Hebert. 1993. Daphnia lumholtzi in North America: another exotic zooplankter. Limnology and Oceanography 38:1837-1841.

Havel, J.E., W.R. Mabee, and J.R. Jones. 1995. Invasion of the exotic cladoceran Daphnia lumholtzi into North American reservoirs. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 52:151-160.

Havel, J.E., and J.B. Shurin. 2004. Mechanisms, effects, and scales of dispersal in freshwater zooplankton. Limnology and Oceanography 49:1229-1238.

Havel, J.E., and K.M. Medley. 2006. Biological invasions across spatial scales: intercontinental, regional, and local dispersal of cladoceran zooplankton. Biological Invasions 8: 459-473.

Johnson, J.L., and J.E. Havel. 2001. Competition between native and exotic Daphnia: in situ experiments. Journal of Plankton Research 23(4): 373-387.

Kolar, C.S., and D.H. Wahl. 1998. Daphnid morphology deters fish predators. Oecologia 116: 556-564.

Kuwabara, J. S. – U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA.

Lemke, A.M., J.A. Stoekel, and M.A. Pegg. 2003. Utilization of the exotic cladoceran Daphnia lumholtzi by juvenile fishes in an Illinois River floodplain lake. Journal of Fish Biology 62: 938-954.

Lennon, J.T., V.H. Smith, and A.r. Dzialowski. 2003. Invasibility of plankton food webs along a trophic state gradient. Oikos 103: 191-203.

Lienesch, P.W., and M. Gophen. 2001. Predation by inland silversides on an exotic cladoceran, Daphnia lumholtzi, in Lake Texoma, U.S.A. 59: 1249-1257.

Muzinic, C.J. 2000. First record of Daphnia lumholtzi Sars in the Great Lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Resarch 26(3): 352-354.

Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program. Spiny and Fishhook Waterfleas. http://www.invadingspecies.com/invaders/invertebrates/spiny-and-fishhook-waterflea/. Accessed on 05/31/2013.

Pegg, M.A. – University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.

Soeken-Gittinger, L.A., J.A. Stoeckel, and J.E. Havel. 2009. Differing effects of suspended sediments on the performance of native and exotic Daphnia. Freshwater Biology 54: 495-504. 

Stoeckel, J.A. – Auburn University, Auburn, AL.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). 2008. Predicting future introductions of nonindigenous species to the Great Lakes. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC; EPA/600/R-08/066F. Available from the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA, and http://www.epa.gov/ncea.

Work, K.A., and M. Gophen. 1999. Factors which affect the abundance of an invasive cladoceran, Daphnia lumholtzi, in U.S. reservoirs. Freshwater Biology 42: 1-10.

Author: Benson, A., E. Maynard, D. Raikow, J. Larson, T.H. Makled, and A. Fusaro

Contributing Agencies:

Revision Date: 9/12/2019

Citation for this information:
Benson, A., E. Maynard, D. Raikow, J. Larson, T.H. Makled, and A. Fusaro, 2020, Daphnia lumholtzi G.O. Sars, 1885: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/greatLakes/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=164&Potential=N&Type=0&HUCNumber=, Revision Date: 9/12/2019, Access Date: 2/27/2020

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.