MEPS 294:141-159 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps294141

Comprehensive evaluation of the palatability and chemical defenses of subtidal macroalgae from the Antarctic Peninsula

Charles D. Amsler1,*, Katrin Iken1,5, James B. McClintock1, Margaret O. Amsler1, Kevin J. Peters1, Joanna M. Hubbard2, F. Bruce Furrow3, Bill J. Baker4

1Department of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-1170, USA
2Anchorage School District, Anchorage, Alaska 99516, USA
3Department of Chemistry, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida 32901, USA
4Department of Chemistry, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620, USA
5Present address: Institute of Marine Science, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220, USA

ABSTRACT: The palatability of 35 non-encrusting, subtidal macroalgal species collected from the vicinity of Palmer Station, Antarctica (64°46’S, 64°03’W), was determined in laboratory bioassays utilizing sympatric sea stars and fish known to consume macroalgae in nature. Overall, 63% of the macroalgal species offered to sea stars and 83% of the macroalgal species offered to fish in thallus bioassays were significantly unpalatable. This included all of the ecologically dominant, overstory brown macroalgae in the region. When organic extracts of unpalatable macroalgal species were incorporated into artificial foods, 76% of the species unpalatable as thallus to sea stars were also unpalatable to them as extract, and 53% of the species unpalatable as thallus to fish were also unpalatable to them as extract. If either sea stars or fish rejected thallus of a macroalgal species, palatability of organic extracts of that species to herbivorous amphipods was determined: 63% of such algal species were unpalatable as extract to the amphipods. It was concluded that antarctic macroalgae are commonly unpalatable to sympatric consumers and that much of this unpalatability is the result of chemical defenses. As a whole, neither thallus toughness nor a variety of nutritional quality parameters appeared to be related to macroalgal palatability. We also tested the hypothesis that nitrogen-containing metabolites should be common in macroalgae from nitrogen-replete, carbon-limited environments such as the coastal waters of Antarctica. Macroalgal acid extracts targeting nitrogenous secondary metabolites were subjected to thin-layer chromatography analysis; no such compounds were detected.

KEY WORDS: Chemical defenses · Antarctica · Herbivory · Macroalgae · Resource allocation model · Carbon–nutrient balance hypothesis

Full text in pdf format