MEPS 327:183-191 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps327183

Ontogeny of a symbiont-produced chemical defense in Bugula neritina (Bryozoa)

Nicole B. Lopanik1,3,*, Nancy M. Targett1, Niels Lindquist2

1University of Delaware, Graduate College of Marine Studies, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes, Delaware 19958, USA
2University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Marine Sciences, 3431 Arendell Street, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA
3Present address: University of Michigan, Life Sciences Institute, 210 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2216, USA

ABSTRACT: The larvae of the arborescent bryozoan Bugula neritina are chemically defended against predators by unpalatable secondary metabolites called bryostatins. Bryostatins, polyketide-derived secondary compounds, are produced by the bacterial symbiont ‘Candidatus Endobugula sertula’, which is present throughout all life stages of B. neritina. Crude extracts of larval and all juvenile stages of B. neritina significantly reduced pinfish feeding (p < 0.003). Extract unpalatability is due to high bryostatin concentrations. As B. neritina increases in age after larval settlement and metamorphosis, palatability increases as bryostatin concentrations decrease precipitously. Extracts of brooding portions of adult colonies reduced pinfish feeding by a significant 54% (p = 0.008), whereas extracts of non-brooding portions of the same colonies resulted in a non-significant 20% decline in feeding (p = 0.125). Our data suggest that the different life stages of B. neritina employ alternate defensive strategies. The mobile, short-lived larvae and early-stage juveniles are defended from predators by having deterrent levels of bryostatins; in contrast, the older juveniles and adults, which are clonal and relatively long-lived, may be defended largely by high levels of structural material (i.e. chitin and carbonate). Predation pressure on the vulnerable larval stage of B. neritina appears in part to have driven selection for the development and maintenance of the symbiotic relationship between B. neritina and Ca. Endobugula sertula whereby the larvae are chemically defended by symbiont-produced bryostatins.

KEY WORDS: Chemical defense · Symbiosis · Bugula neritina · Bryostatins · Ontogenetic defense

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