Simple staining method for differentiating live and dead marine zooplankton in field samples

David T. Elliott, Kam W. Tang

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 7:585-594 (2009) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2009.7.585

ABSTRACT: We describe and evaluate a method for the use of neutral red staining to differentiate live and dead zooplankton in marine field samples. The protocol can be easily incorporated into shipboard zooplankton sampling. The use of neutral red in laboratory studies is common, but its application for quantifying natural live/dead zooplankton composition under field conditions has not been evaluated in detail. We tested the accuracy and precision of the method for a range of salinities and temperatures, and for common estuarine zooplankton groups. Detailed descriptions of staining intensities and patterns are provided. In addition, we evaluated potential artifact mortality due to collection and sample handling. The method produced accurate results under conditions tested, and artifact mortality was negligible using the recommended protocol. Neutral red staining is ideal for quantification of zooplankton carcasses in field samples, which will allow for more systematic study of in situ zooplankton mortality and related processes.