Rotifera

Abstract

Rotifera is a moderately sized phylum of minute, bilaterally symmetrical, unsegmented animals that live predominantly in freshwaters. The phylum name (Latin, rota, wheel; ferre, to bear), first used by Cuvier in 1798, refers to the anterior end that in many species resembles a rotating wheel due to the sequential beat of its cilia. Rotifers have been found on every continent, occupying a diverse array of habitats, including marine, brackish and freshwaters, as well as the film of water that coats terrestrial mosses and particles in damp soils. In lakes rotifers often achieve high population densities (>1000 individuals per litre); thus, as consumers of bacteria, algae and protists they are ecologically important in transferring energy to higher trophic levels. As rotifers are a good food for young fishes, they are grown in mass quantities in commercial aquaculture. They also serve as models for research on ageing, and as bioindicators for ecotoxicology.

Key Concepts:

  • Rotifers have been found in the inland waters (both fresh and saline) of every continent, in the moisture covering some plants such as mosses, and in damp soil. Although generally not as abundant as in continental waters, rotifers often flourish in nearshore marine waters and estuaries.

  • Many rotifers are capable of undergoing dormancy, either as adults or embryos, allowing them to disperse in space or time and often avoid harsh conditions.

  • Feeding mainly on other microscopic organisms, including bacteria, algae and protists, rotifers are important basal consumers in aquatic systems.

  • In certain lakes, rotifers play an important role connecting the microbial loop to the classic food web, whereby the dissolved organic carbon is taken up by the bacteria that are consumed by rotifers, which in turn are consumed by higher trophic levels. In this way, a portion of the energy in dissolved organic matter is returned to the food web.

  • As they are the first food for larval organisms, rotifers have been exploited by aquaculturists to maintain commercially important fishes, shrimps and crabs.

  • As they are comparatively inexpensive and easy to culture and possess relatively short life spans, rotifers are used in ageing studies and to assess the toxicity of compounds such as heavy metals, pesticides and pharmaceuticals.

  • Some species of rotifers have specific ecological requirements making them useful as indicators of water quality.

  • The phylogenetic position of rotifers has not yet been resolved, but they appear to be related to a group of small, jawed metazoans (Gnathifera). Acanthocephala, an entirely parasitic phylum, are now considered to be highly aberrant rotifers.

  • Over the years rotifers have entered the collective culture ethos as subjects of poetry, science fiction and children's literature, artists' workings in glass and mixed media and pop music.

Keywords: anhydrobiosis; aquaculture; corona; diapause; eutely; intracytoplasmic lamina; parthenogenesis; syncytial; trophi

Figure 1.

Anatomy of a generalised rotifer. Reproduced with permission from Barnes, Calow and Olive .

Figure 2.

Asplanchna brightwellii – an illoricate, monogonont rotifer that is abundant in freshwater ponds. This raptorial species feeds on large algae, protists, other rotifers and small crustaceans. Bar, 100 μm.

Figure 3.

Limnias melicerta – a common, freshwater, sessile rotifer of subclass Monogononta that secretes a clear, firm tube. Although usually solitary, this illoricate species occasionally forms intraspecific colonies. Bar, 100 μm.

Figure 4.

Collotheca campanulata – a sessile rotifer lacking the typical ciliated corona of rotifers. The corona of this illoricate, raptorial species is highly modified into a funnel‐shaped structure termed the infundibulum. Bar, 100 μm.

Figure 5.

Macrotrachella sp. – a bdelloid rotifer with a corona divided into two separate wheel‐like structures called pedicels. Bar, 100 μm. Reproduced with the kind permission of Giulio Melone, University of Milan. © Giulio Melone.

Figure 6.

Hexarthra sp. – a planktonic rotifer with body projections (arms) that initiate rapid jumps that allow the animal to avoid predators. Bar, 100 μm.

close

References

Barnes RSK, Calow P and Olive PJW (1993) The Invertebrates: A New Synthesis, 2nd edn. London: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

Birky CW Jr (2010) Positively negative evidence for asexuality. Journal of Heredity 101(suppl. 1): S42–S45.

Boschetti C, Pouchkina‐Stantcheva N, Hoffmann P and Tunnacliffe A (2011) Foreign genes and novel hydrophilic protein genes participate in the desiccation response of the bdelloid rotifer Adineta ricciae. Journal of Experimental Biology 214: 59–68.

Dumont HJ and Segers H (1996) Estimating lacustrine zooplankton species richness and complementarity. Hydrobiologia 341: 125–132.

Fontaneto D and Jondelius U (2011) Broad taxonomic sampling of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I does not solve the relationships between Rotifera and Acanthocephala. Zoologischer Anzeiger 250: 80–85.

Fontaneto D, Kaya M, Herniou EA and Barraclough TG (2009) Extreme levels of hidden diversity in microscopic animals (Rotifera) revealed by DNA taxonomy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53: 182–189.

Fontaneto D, De Smet WH and Ricci C (2006) Rotifers in saltwater environments, re‐evaluation of an inconspicuous taxon. Journal of the Marine Biological Association 86: 623–656.

Fontaneto D and Melone G (2005) Do rotifer jaws grow after hatching? Hydrobiologia 546: 213–221.

Gilbert JJ (1966) Rotifer ecology and embryological induction. Science 151: 1234–1237.

Gilbert JJ (1974) Dormancy in rotifers. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society 93: 490–513.

Gilbert JJ (1992) Rotifera. In: Adiyodi KG and Adiyodi RG (eds) Reproductive Biology of Invertebrates – Sexual Differentiation and Behaviour, vol. 5, pp. 115–136. New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co.

Gladyshev E and Meselson M (2008) Extreme resistance of bdelloid rotifers to ionizing radiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105: 5139–5144.

Gladyshev E and Arkhipova IR (2010) Genome structure of bdelloid rotifers: shaped by asexuality or desiccation? Journal of Heredity 101(suppl. 1): S85–S93.

Gómez A, Serra M, Carvalho GR and Lunt DH (2002) Speciation in ancient cryptic species complexes: evidence from the molecular phylogeny of Brachionus plicatilis (Rotifera). Evolution 56: 1431–1444.

Hochberg R (2009) Three‐dimensional reconstruction and neural map of the serotonergic brain of Asplanchna brightwellii (Rotifera, Monogononta). Journal of Morphology 270: 430–441.

Hochberg R and Ablak Gurbuz O (2008) Comparative morphology of the somatic musculature in species of Hexarthra and Polyarthra (Rotifera, Monogononta): its function in appendage movement and escape behavior. Zoologischer Anzeiger 247: 233–248.

Leasi F, Neves RC, Worsaae K and Sørensen MV (2012) Musculature of Seison nebaliae Grube, 1861 and Paraseison annulatus (Claus, 1876) revealed with CLSM: a comparative study of the gnathiferan key taxon Seisonacea (Rotifera). Zoomorphology 131: 185–195.

Leasi F and Ricci C (2010) Musculature of two bdelloid rotifers, Adineta ricciae and Macrotrachela quadricornifera: organization in a functional and evolutionary perspective. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 48: 33–39.

Mark Welch D and Meselson M (2000) Evidence for the evolution of bdelloid rotifers without sexual reproduction or genetic exchange. Science 288: 1211–1215.

Mark Welch D, Ricci C and Meselson M (2009) Bdelloid rotifers: progress in understanding the success of an evolutionary scandal. In: Schön I, Martens K and van Dijk P (eds) Lost Sex: The Evolutionary Biology of Parthenogenesis, pp. 259–279. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Marotta R, Leasi F, Uggetti A, Ricci C and Melone G (2010) Dry and survive: morphological changes during anhydrobiosis in a bdelloid rotifer. Journal of Structural Biology 171: 11–17.

May L (1989) Epizoic and parasitic rotifers. Hydrobiologia 186/187: 59–67.

Maynard Smith J (1986) Contemplating life without sex. Nature 324: 300–301.

Melone G (2001) Rhinoglena frontalis (Rotifera, Monogononta): a scanning electron microscopic study. Hydrobiologia 466/467: 291–296.

Melone G and Fontaneto D (2005) Trophi structure in bdelloid rotifers. Hydrobiologia 546: 197–202.

Min G‐S and Park J‐K (2009) Eurotatorian paraphyly: Revisiting phylogenetic relationships based on the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of Rotaria rotatoria (Bdelloidea: Rotifera: Syndermata). BMC Genomics 10: 533.

Pourriot R (1979) Rotiféres du sol. Revue d'Ecologie Et de Biologie Du Sol 16: 279–312.

Ricci C (1987) Ecology of bdelloids: how to be successful. Hydrobiologia 147: 117–127.

Ricci C (1993) Old and new data on Seisonidea (Rotifera). Hydrobiologia 255/256: 495–511.

Ricci C and Caprioli M (2005) Anhydrobiosis in bdelloid species, populations and individuals. Intergrative and Comparative Biology 45: 759–763.

Ricci C and Melone G (1998) Dwarf males in monogonont rotifers. Aquatic Ecology 32: 361–365.

Ruppert EE (1991) Introduction to the aschelminth phyla: a consideration of mesoderm, body cavities, and cuticle. In: Harrison FW and Ruppert EE (eds) Microscopic Anatomy of Invertebrates, vol. 4, pp. 1–17. New York: Wiley‐Liss.

Sarma SSS (1993) Feeding responses of Asplanchna brightwelli (rotifera): laboratory and field studies. Hydrobiologia 255/256: 275–282.

Serra M and Snell TW (2009) Sex loss in monogonont rotifers. In: Schön I, Martens K and van Dijk P (eds) Lost Sex: The Evolutionary Biology of Parthenogenesis, pp. 281–294. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media BV.

Sørensen MV and Giribet G (2006) A modern approach to rotiferan phylogeny: combining morphological and molecular data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 585–608.

Swadling KM, Dartnall HJG, Gibson JAE, Saulnier‐Talbot E and Vincent WF (2001) Fossil rotifers and the early colonization of an Antarctic Lake. Quaternary Research 55: 380–384.

Waggoner BM and Poinar GO Jr (1993) Fossil habrotrochid rotifers in Dominican amber. Experientia 49: 354–357.

Wallace RL (1980) Ecology of sessile rotifers. Hydrobiologia 73: 181–193.

Wallace RL (1999) Rotifera. In: Knobil E and Neill JD (eds) Encyclopedia of Reproduction, vol. 4, pp. 118–129. San Diego: Academic Press.

Wallace RL (2002) Rotifers: exquisite metazoans. Integrative and Comparative Biology 42: 660–667.

Wallace RL, Ott DW, Stiles SL and Oldham‐Ott CK (2001) Bed and Breakfast: the parasitic life of Proales werneckii (Ploimida: Proalidae) within the alga Vaucheria (Xanthophyceae: Vaucheriales). Hydrobiologia 446/447: 129–137.

Wallace RL and Smith HA (2009) Rotifera. In: Likens GE (ed.) Encyclopedia of Inland Waters, vol. 3: 689–703. Oxford: Elsevier.

Wallace RL and Snell TW (2010) Rotifera. In: Thorp J and Covich A (eds) Ecology and Classification of North American Freshwater Invertebrates, 3rd edn, pp. 173–235. Oxford: Amsterdam Elsevier, Inc.

Walsh EJ, Schröder T, Wallace RL and Rico‐Martinez R (2009) Cryptic speciation in Lecane bulla (Monogononta: Rotifera) in Chihuahuan Desert waters. Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung Limnologie 30: 1046–1050.

Warner BG and Chengalath R (1991) Habrotrocha angusticollis (Bdelloidae, Rotifera): a new paleoecological indicator in Holocene peat deposits in Canada. Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung Limnologie 24: 2738–2740.

Wilson CG and Sherman PW (2010) Anciently asexual bdelloid rotifers escape lethal fungal parasites by drying up and blowing away. Science 327: 574–576.

Further Reading

Clément P and Wurdak E (1991) Rotifera. In: Harrison FW and Ruppert EE (eds) Microscopic Anatomy of Invertebrates, vol. 4, pp. 219–297. New York: Wiley‐Liss.

Fussmann GF (2011) Rotifers: excellent subjects for the study of macro‐ and microevolutionary change. Hydrobiologia 662: 11–18.

Jersabek CD (2005) The ‘Frank J. Myers Rotifera Collection’ at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Hydrobiologia 546: 137–140.

Kostopoulou V, Carmona MJ and Divanach P (2012) The rotifer Brachionus plicatilis: an emerging bio‐tool for numerous applications. Journal of Biological Research – Thessaloniki 17: 97–112.

Ruttner‐Kolisko A (1974) Planktonic rotifers biology and taxonomy. Die Binnengewässer 26(suppl. 1): 1–146.

Wallace RL and Ricci C (2002) Rotifera. In: Rundle SD, Robertson AL and Schmid‐Araya JM (eds) Freshwater Meiofauna: Biology and Ecology, pp. 15–44. Leiden: Backhuys Publishers.

Wallace RL, Snell TW, Ricci C and Nogrady T (2006) Rotifera: Volume 1 Biology, Ecology and Systematics (2nd edn). In: Segers H (ed.) Guides to the Identification of the Microinvertebrates of the Continental Waters of the World, vol. 23, pp. 1–299. Ghent: Kenobi Productions; Leiden: Backhuys Publishers.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Wallace, Robert Lee, and Smith, Hilary April(May 2013) Rotifera. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001588.pub2]