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Effects of Caffeine and Alcohol on the Heart Rates of

Daphnia Magna
Dean Doneen
BIOL 1500


Dean Doneen

Scientists are separated from people who simply wonder about things by the use of the
scientific method. This method has several steps, all of which play an important role. Generally, these
are considered to be observation, question, hypothesis, experiment, and discussion/conclusion. In
observation, a specific phenomenon in noticed, as simple as that. Then a question is proposed about
that phenomenon. Next, a hypothesis is formed, which is a proposed explanation about that
phenomenon which leads to a prediction. In the prediction, which is often stated in an if/then form, the
reason for the hypothesis and a guess as to what the results of the experiment will be are stated. Then
an experiment is performed which tests the hypothesis. An experiment should only test one variable at
a time, and have a control group and an experimental group does this. Additionally, all other variables
that could have an impact on the results of the experiment, which arent being tested, should be kept
the same in all trials; these are known as control variables. Finally, the discussion/conclusion supports
or rejects the hypothesis based off of the results of the experiment. It also goes into some discussion
about what the results mean more broadly, and explores some challenges during the experiment, and
further possibilities for research.
Daphnia is a genus which includes more than 100 known species of freshwater plankton
organisms found around the world (Bethesda) they live in many all standing freshwater habitats, and
all swim well. They get food by a process known as filter feeding which is the separation of particles
from fluids by the use of porous media. (Rubenstein) Basically, they filter stuff out of the water they live
in, and eat it. It works because they are so small and dont need that much to eat. Daphnia magna is a
good test organism for this lab because they are not a mammal, so the effect of caffeine and alcohol is
perhaps less better known than the effects on mammals like us, and also because their heart beat is
easy to examine under a microscope, a tool that we are learning how to use.


We first examined the heart rates of two daphnia magna; five times each, to get a good average
heart beat for the species. We calculated the BPM by counting how many times its heart beat in 15
seconds, then multiplied that by 4. We used a microscope so we could view the organs of the species.
We found that it was a lot easier to observe if there was as little water as possible on the slide, so we
used a Kim Wipe to soak up most of the water on the slide. We then calculated the average heart beat
so we would have something to compare the results against.
We used a similar method to observe the effects of caffeine and alcohol on the heartbeat of
daphnia magna. We put a daphnia on a slide, and then put a drop of various concentrations of caffeine
or alcohol (0%, 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, and 5%). After having soaked in the caffeine or alcohol for one
minute, again we counted the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiplied by 4 for the BPM. For both
caffeine and alcohol, we attempted to test all concentration levels on two different daphnia magna, and
calculated the average of the two. We compared our results with the class averages to get a better
approximation for the normal reaction to alcohol and caffeine amongst daphnia magna.
To ensure better accuracy for our results, we did the experiment in groups of two, that is, two
people worked together and recorded their results, then we took all of the group results for each
concentration and got the average of them all. This was necessary for more accurate results, for one
group could have had strange results, but the class averages were probably more reliable.

Dean Doneen

Our results indicated that as more alcohol was dropped on the daphnia, its heart rate
decreased; as more caffeine was added, its heart rate increased.


Our predictions before beginning the lab were that alcohol would decrease the heart rate and
caffeine would increase the heart rate. We made this assumption based off of our own experience with
caffeine and alcohol, assuming that the drugs probably affect daphnia in a similar way. The results did
match our predictions, in the graphs above, the trend is clear that as more alcohol was added the heart
rate decreased and that as more caffeine was added the heart rate increased.
The ultimate goal of this lab was to determine how these drugs affect daphnia, and the question
was effectively answered. There are 2 clear trends in Figure 1, which depicts our results. Alcohol
decreases heart rate, and caffeine increases it. However, to be near entirely sure, wed have to include
experiments with human subjects.
It would be interesting to test if daphnia would ever build up a tolerance to alcohol and caffeine,
the way that humans do. Since it is now known that they react similarly, it of course raises the question
of where do those similarities end. Another interesting experiment would be to test how daphnia heart
rate changes after being given the same concentration of caffeine or alcohol for a certain length of time.
Some things that could make this lab easier in the future would be to have more large daphnia
samples. Eventually, we ran out of large sized daphnia and had to use smaller ones, which were very

Dean Doneen
hard to get on the tray, and also pretty difficult to see and examine their heart rate. Having larger
daphnia the whole time would also probably result in more consistent answers, as it is possible the size
of the daphnia has a result on the heart rate.
The question of the size of the daphnia remains an unresolved issue with this lab. Additionally,
in our individual group experiments, we had several deaths occur under the microscope. This could
either mean that alcohol and caffeine is incredible bad for them (a definite possibility) or these were not
the healthiest daphnia. In order to get much better results, we could have used consistently large,
healthy daphnia.

Dean Doneen


Ebert D. Ecology, Epidemiology, and Evolution of Parasitism in Daphnia [Internet]. Bethesda (MD):
National Center for Biotechnology Information (US); 2005. Chapter 2, Introduction to Daphnia Biology.
Available from:

Rubenstein, Daniel I., and Koehl M. A. R. "The Mechanisms of Filter Feeding: Some Theoretical
Considerations." The American Naturalist 111.981 (1977): 981-94. Web.