MEPS 560:199-206 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11939

KEYSTONEin: A glycoprotein cue drives predation on mussels and structures rocky intertidal communities

Richard K. Zimmer1,2,*,**, Graham A. Ferrier1,**, Cheryl Ann Zimmer1,2 

1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
2Moreton Bay Research Station, Centre for Marine Science, and School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane 4072, Queensland, Australia
*Corresponding author:
**These authors contributed equally to this work

ABSTRACT: Foundation species provide critical resources to ecological community members and are major determinants of biodiversity. One such species, the California mussel Mytilus californianus, is a superior competitor and dominates space on rocky, wave-swept shores (northeast Pacific Ocean). Live mussels secrete a 29.6 kDa glycoprotein (named ‘KEYSTONEin’), with expression localized in epidermis, extrapallial fluid, and periostracum (organic shell coating). Hence, KEYSTONEin is available for contact recognition as predators crawl on rocky surfaces. Purple sea stars Pisaster ochraceus, whelks (Nucella emarginata and Acanthinucella spirata), and lined-shore crabs Pachygrapsus crassipes are common intertidal carnivores. Spanning 3 phyla and differing substantially in sensory mechanisms and hunting techniques, all are major mussel consumers. Here, we constructed faux prey to mimic both physical and chemical properties of mussels. Purified KEYSTONEin was presented at a typical mussel concentration. All 4 predatory species attacked, and ate, KEYSTONEin-infused faux prey as opposed to the organic enrichment or seawater controls. Sea stars, whelks (both species), and crabs also did not distinguish between KEYSTONEin-laced mimics and their live, intact counterparts. Mechanisms of chemical recognition thus have converged across phylogenetically diverse taxa to promote the exploitation of a valuable, shared, prey resource. By providing critical sensory information, KEYSTONEin drives mussel predation and initiates trophic cascades that shape community structure and function. KEYSTONEin is necessary and sufficient as a predatory cue of considerable ecological consequence.


KEY WORDS: Chemical ecology · Chemical cue · Keystone predation · Foundation species · Mussel · Crab · Whelk · Sea star


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Cite this article as: Zimmer RK, Ferrier GA, Zimmer CA (2016) KEYSTONEin: A glycoprotein cue drives predation on mussels and structures rocky intertidal communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 560:199-206. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11939

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