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Aquatic Biology

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AB 12:109-117 (2011)  -  DOI:

Detrimental physiological effects of the invasive alga Caulerpa racemosa on the Mediterranean white seabream Diplodus sargus

Antonio Terlizzi1,*, Serena Felline1, Maria Giulia Lionetto1, Roberto Caricato1, Vincenzo Perfetti2, Adele Cutignano2, Ernesto Mollo2

1Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche ed Ambientali, Università del Salento, CoNISMa, 73100 Lecce, Italy
2Istituto di Chimica Biomolecolare, CNR, Via Campi Flegrei 34, 80078 Pozzuoli, Naples, Italy

ABSTRACT: Observational data suggest that the white seabream Diplodus sargus, a sparid fish of economic and ecological relevance in the Mediterranean Sea, has included the invasive green alga Caulerpa racemosa in its diet. Here we adopted a chemoecological approach to study the trophic relationship between the fish and the exotic pest. We demonstrated that the red pigment caulerpin, the most abundant secondary metabolite of C. racemosa, enters food chains and accumulates in the fish tissues. General biological condition markers associated with fish health and reproductive development were measured and correlated with the caulerpin levels in the fish tissues. Significant cor­relations among caulerpin tissue load (determined by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis) and fish condition factor and hepatosomatic index were obtained, suggesting a possible detrimental effect of the dietary exposure to C. racemosa on D. sargus. Glutathione peroxidase and catalase activity were also significantly correlated with caulerpin concentrations in the liver, suggesting a possible interaction between algal metabolites and liver antioxidant mechanisms. Studies on the impact of invasive macroalgae on marine assemblages have been almost exclusively focused on the structural modification of benthic assemblages, through the alteration of the relative importance of some endemic species and the modification of habitat complexity. Here we propose a new mechanism by which invasive algae can impact marine systems, namely the entry of pest metabolites in food webs, with potential detrimental effects on the population dynamics of a single species, alteration of trophic webs and changes in the functioning of coastal ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Caulerpa racemosa · Diplodus sargus · Pest metabolites · Food webs · Biomarkers · Mediterranean Sea

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Cite this article as: Terlizzi A, Felline S, Lionetto MG, Caricato R, Perfetti V, Cutignano A, Mollo E (2011) Detrimental physiological effects of the invasive alga Caulerpa racemosa on the Mediterranean white seabream Diplodus sargus. Aquat Biol 12:109-117.

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