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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 396 - Table of contents
Mimicry by the sacoglossan sea slug Stiliger smaragdinus (center) of its exclusive host seaweed Caulerpa lentillifera (at left and right). Photo: Nicholas Paul

Baumgartner FA, Motti CA, de Nys R, Paul NA


Feeding preferences and host associations of specialist marine herbivores align with quantitative variation in seaweed secondary metabolites


Selective pressure from specialists is an important driver of variation in plant chemical defences. Baumgartner and co-authors examined the consequences of quantitative variation in seaweed secondary metabolites on diet specificity and host associations of sacoglossans (sap-sucking sea slugs) of the genera Elysia, Lobiger, Oxynoe and Stiliger. Seven species of the algal genus Caulerpa had markedly different levels of the secondary metabolites caulerpenyne and oxytoxin 1. Sacoglossans revealed dietary preferences for Caulerpa species with intermediate or low metabolite concentrations. However, only Lobiger and Stiliger had host associations that mirrored their diet preferences. Elysia, on the other hand, was predominantly associated with seaweeds having high metabolite concentrations.


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