Copepods in high elevation lakes and ponds in Colorado are exposed to significant levels of ultraviolet radiation (UV), necessitating development of UV avoidance behavior and photoprotective physiological adaptations. The copepods are brightly pigmented due to accumulation of astaxanthin, a carotenoid which has photoprotective and antioxidant properties. Astaxanthin interacts with a crustacyanin-like protein, shifting its absorbance from 473 nm (hydrophobic free form, appears red) to 632 nm (protein-bound complex, appears blue). In six sites in Colorado, habitat-specific coloration patterns related to carotenoprotein complex have been observed. The objective of this study was to determine whether pigment accumulation or carotenoprotein expression has a greater effect on resistance to UV exposure. For each site, copepod tolerance to UV was assessed by survivorship during UV exposure trials. Average UV exposure was determined for each habitat. Astaxanthin profiles were generated for copepods in each site. Ability to withstand UV exposure during exposure trials was significantly different between color morphs (p < 0.0001). Red copepods were found to tolerate 2-fold greater levels of UVB than blue or mixed copepods. Additionally, red copepods have much higher levels of total astaxanthin than blue or mixed copepods (p < 0.0001) and receive a higher daily UV dose (p < 0.0003). Diaptomid carotenoprotein sequence is not homologous with that of other crustaceans in which crustacyanin has been characterized which prevented quantification of carotenoprotein transcript expression. Overall, diaptomid color morph may be an important indicator of UV conditions in high elevation lentic ecosystems.
Lesson plan containing a collection of activities and resources regarding the sun, natural selection, and skin color that meet state education standards and national sustainability standards for the 8th grade level.