Toward a grand unified theory of copepods

Nicholas Record (June 30, 2011)

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Pelagic copepods are the dominant mesozooplankton in much of the world's oceans. They form a crucial link in the transfer of energy from primary production to upper trophic levels, and they are a significant contributor to vertical carbon flux through migration and fecal pellets. Much effort has gone into studying the effects of climate change on individual species. The effects of changing conditions on communities and assemblages are not as well understood. Answering this kind of question requires the development of a more general mathematical framework. Copepod morphologies are very similar across species. Differences between species are better described by how life history strategies are parameterized. By formulating these strategies with mechanistic equations, we can build a copepod model that is general enough to describe a wide range of species. Each species is represented by a digital chromosome of parameters, so that different sets of parameter values map to different species. This framework allows us to span scales from individually-based processes to system level properties such as biodiversity and size spectra. We can explore how temperature, resource availability, and mortality regimes structure modeled copepod communities.