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Ветвистоусые ракообразные.jpg
Scientific classification

Latreille, 1829

Eucladocera (no evidence for grouping together all other cladocerans as the sister taxon to the monotypic Haplopoda (Leptodora))

The Cladocera, commonly known as water fleas are an order of small crustaceans that feed on microscopic chunks of organic matter (excluding some predatory forms). [1]

Over 650 species have been recognised so far, with many more undescribed. They first appeared before the Permian period,[2][3][4][5] and have since invaded most freshwater habitats. Some have also adapted to a life in the ocean, the only members of Branchiopoda to do so, even if several anostracans live in hypersaline lakes.[6] Most are 0.2–6.0 mm (0.01–0.24 in) long, with a down-turned head with a single median compound eye, and a carapace covering the apparently unsegmented thorax and abdomen. Most species show cyclical parthenogenesis, where asexual reproduction is occasionally supplemented by sexual reproduction, which produces resting eggs that allow the species to survive harsh conditions and disperse to distant habitats.


Leptodora kindtii is an unusually large cladoceran, at up to 18 mm long.

They are mostly 0.2–6.0 mm (0.01–0.24 in) long, with the exception of Leptodora, which can be up to 18 mm (0.71 in) long.[7] The body is not obviously segmented and bears a folded carapace which covers the thorax and abdomen.[8]

The head is angled downwards, and may be separated from the rest of the body by a "cervical sinus" or notch.[8] It bears a single black compound eye, located on the animal's midline, in all but two genera, and often, a single ocellus is present.[9] The head also bears two pairs of antennae – the first antennae are small, unsegmented appendages, while the second antennae are large, segmented, and branched, with powerful muscles.[8] The first antennae bear olfactory setae, while the second are used for swimming by most species.[9] The pattern of setae on the second antennae is useful for identification.[8] The part of the head which projects in front of the first antennae is known as the rostrum or "beak".[8]

The mouthparts are small, and consist of an unpaired labrum, a pair of mandibles, a pair of maxillae, and an unpaired labium.[8] They are used to eat "organic detritus of all kinds" and bacteria.[8]

The thorax bears five or six pairs of lobed, leaf-like appendages, each with numerous hairs or setae.[8] Carbon dioxide is lost, and oxygen taken up, through the body surface.[8]


A cladocera giving birth (100x magnification)

With the exception of a few purely asexual species, the lifecycle of cladocerans is dominated by asexual reproduction, with occasional periods of sexual reproduction; this is known as cyclical parthenogenesis. The system evolved in the Permian, when the Cladocera arose.[10] When conditions are favourable, reproduction occurs by parthenogenesis for several generations, producing only female clones. As the conditions deteriorate, males are produced, and sexual reproduction occurs. This results in the production of long-lasting dormant eggs. These ephippial eggs can be transported over land by wind, and hatch when they reach favourable conditions, allowing many species to have very wide – even cosmopolitandistributions.[8]


Evadne spinifera, one of very few marine cladoceran species

Most cladoceran species live in fresh water and other inland water bodies, with only eight species being truly oceanic.[9] The marine species are all in the family Podonidae, except for the genus Penilia.[9] Some cladocerans inhabit leaf litter.[11]


The superorder Cladocera is included in the class Branchiopoda, and forms a monophyletic group, which is currently divided into four orders. Around 620 species have been described, but many more species remain undescribed.[7] The genus Daphnia alone contains around 150 species.[10]

The following families are recognised:[12]

Superorder Cladocera Latreille, 1829


The word "Cladocera" derives via New Latin from the Ancient Greek κλάδος (kládos, "branch") and κέρας (kéras, "horn").[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ WoRMS (2021). Cladocera. Accessed at: on 2021-05-26
  2. ^ Kotov, Alexey (2007). "Jurassic Cladocera (Crustacea, Branchiopoda) with a description of an extinct Mesozoic order". Journal of Natural History. 41 (1–4): 13–37. doi:10.1080/00222930601164445. S2CID 83483722.
  3. ^ Kotov, Alexey (2009). "New finding of Mesozoic ephippia of the Anomopoda (Crustacea: Cladocera)". Journal of Natural History. 43 (9–10): 523–528. doi:10.1080/00222930802003020. S2CID 84144888.
  4. ^ Kotov, Alexey; Korovchinsky, Nikolai (2006). "First record of fossil Mesozoic Ctenopoda (Crustacea, Cladocera)". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 146 (2): 269–274. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2006.00204.x.
  5. ^ Kotov, Alexey; Taylor, Derek (2011). "Mesozoic fossils (>145 Mya) suggest the antiquity of the subgenera of Daphnia and their coevolution with chaoborid predators". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 11: 129. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-129. PMC 3123605. PMID 21595889.
  6. ^ Vernberg, F. John (2014). Environmental Adaptations. Elsevier Science. pp. 338–. ISBN 978-0-323-16282-1.
  7. ^ a b L. Forró; N. M. Korovchinsky; A. A. Kotov; A. Petrusek (2008). "Global diversity of cladocerans (Cladocera; Crustacea) in freshwater" (PDF). Hydrobiologia. 595 (1): 177–184. doi:10.1007/s10750-007-9013-5. S2CID 45363782. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-8259-7_19
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Douglas Grant Smith; Kirstern Work (2001). "Cladoceran Branchiopoda (water fleas)". In Douglas Grant Smith (ed.). Pennak's Freshwater Invertebrates of the United States: Porifera to Crustacea (4th ed.). John Wiley and Sons. pp. 453–488. ISBN 978-0-471-35837-4.
  9. ^ a b c d Denton Belk (2007). "Branchiopoda". In Sol Felty Light; James T. Carlton (eds.). The Light and Smith Manual: Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon (4th ed.). University of California Press. pp. 414–417. ISBN 978-0-520-23939-5.
  10. ^ a b Ellen Decaestecker; Luc De Meester; Joachim Mergaey (2009). "Cyclical parthenogeness in Daphnia: sexual versus asexual reproduction". In Isa Schön; Koen Martens; Peter van Dijk (eds.). Lost Sex: The Evolutionary Biology of Parthenogenesis. Springer. pp. 295–316. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-2770-2_15. ISBN 978-90-481-2769-6.
  11. ^ Rubbo, Michael J.; Kiesecker, Joseph M. (2004). "Leaf litter composition and community structure: translating regional species changes into local dynamics". Ecology. 85 (9): 2519–2525. doi:10.1890/03-0653.
  12. ^ Joel W. Martin; George E. Davis (2001). An Updated Classification of the Recent Crustacea (PDF). Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. pp. 1–132.
  13. ^ K. Van Damme; R. J. Shiel; H. J. Dumont (2007). "Notothrix halsei gen. n., sp. n., representative of a new family of freshwater cladocerans (Branchiopoda, Anomopoda) from SW Australia, with a discussion of ancestral traits and a preliminary molecular phylogeny of the order". Zoologica Scripta. 36 (5): 465–487. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2007.00292.x. S2CID 83893469.
  14. ^ K. Van Damme; R. J. Shiel; H. J. Dumont (2007). "Gondwanotrichidae nom. nov. pro Nototrichidae Van Damme, Shiel & Dumont, 2007". Zoologica Scripta. 36 (5): 623. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2007.00304.x. S2CID 222187102.
  15. ^ "Cladoceran". Webster's II New College Dictionary (3rd ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2005. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-618-39601-6.
  16. ^ USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species: Bythotrephes longimanus
  17. ^ (April 16, 2013) NorthAmericanFishing - "Silent Invaders" Spiny Water Flea PT 1 2013
  • Brusca, R.C.; Brusca, G.J. (1990). Invertebrates. Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MA (USA). ISBN 0-87893-098-1. 922 pp
  • Martin, J.W., & Davis, G.E. (2001). An updated classification of the recent Crustacea. Science Series, 39. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Los Angeles, CA (USA). 124 pp.

External links[edit]

  • Cladocera – Guide to the Marine Zooplankton of South Eastern Australia
  • Media related to Cladocera at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Cladocera at Wikispecies