Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Kendra L. Daly


Body Composition, Ecological Adaptation, Lipid Biomarkers, Metabolism, Oxygen Minimum Zone


The eastern tropical north Pacific (ETNP) is characterized by one of the ocean's most severe midwater oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), where oxygen levels are often less than 5 µM. The copepod family Eucalanidae is a numerically abundant and diverse zooplankton group in the ETNP, and displays a wide range of vertical distributions related to environmental oxygen concentrations. The goal of this dissertation was to develop a better understanding of the ecology, physiology, and biochemistry of closely related copepod species (family Eucalanidae) that inhabit the ETNP OMZ system. This was accomplished through examining different parameters relating to (1) metabolic rates, (2) detailed lipid composition and biomarkers, and (3) body composition, enzyme activity and survivorship in low oxygen water.

Oxygen consumption, ammonium, urea, and phosphate excretion rates were generally highest in Subeucalanus subtenuis, a copepod primarily residing in the upper euphotic zone. Eucalanus inermis, typically found in the lowest oxygen environment of the species examined, showed significantly lower metabolic rates largely due to high water content. Rhincalanus rostrifrons, residing primarily in the upper oxycline, showed intermediate rates, likely relating to its higher reliance on lipid catabolism than S. subtenuis and E. inermis. Urea excretion rates showed a complicated relationship with temperature and oxygen, which calls for further study. Knowledge of such interactions is necessary for accurate modeling of nitrogen cycles in OMZ and other oceanic regions.

Lipid biomarkers suggested that S. subtenuis, E. inermis and Pareucalanus attenuatus all fed primarily on particulates near the chlorophyll maximum region, while R. rostrifrons and R. nasutus likely fed on sinking particulates at depth. These results also emphasized the difference in lipid composition between wax esters and triacylglycerol components of storage lipids. This study suggested a much larger role of phylogeny in characterizing lipid contents than previously thought.

Body composition, enzyme assays and survivorship studies suggested that E. inermis, S. subtenuis, P. attenuatus, R. nasutus and R. rostrifrons formed four separate ecological groups based on genus. E. inermis had low organic matter, moderate lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity, and high survivorship at oxygen concentrations < 20 µM. Rhincalanus spp. also had moderate LDH activity and high survivorship in low oxygen, but were unique in particularly low protein and high lipid content. S. subtenuis was characterized by high protein content, no measurable LDH activity and low survivorship in < 20 µM O2. P. attenuatus was similar to S. subtenuis in many respects, but had lower protein content and a different lipid accumulation strategy.

In conclusion, eucalanoid copepods utilized many different ecological strategies in the ETNP OMZ system. Features of different ecological groups fit well with their observed vertical distributions in the water column. Understanding the ecology of organisms in OMZ systems will allow us better predictive capability for the effects of expanding OMZs in other regions.