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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 396:1-12 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08359

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

Finn A. Baumgartner1,2,4,*, Cherie A. Motti3, Rocky de Nys1, Nicholas A. Paul1

1School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2AIMS@JCU, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, Queensland 4810, Australia
4Present address: Department of Marine Ecology, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory, Gothenburg University, 45296 Strömstad, Sweden

ABSTRACT: Consequences of congeneric quantitative variation in secondary metabolites of seaweeds on diet specificity and host association in specialist marine herbivores have received little attention. We investigated quantitative variation in caulerpenyne and oxytoxin 1 in 7 species of green seaweeds from the genus Caulerpa, along with the feeding preferences and host associations of 4 co-occurring sacoglossan molluscs. C. taxifolia and C. sertularioides contained high concentrations of metabolites and were preferred least by all herbivores. Algae with intermediate metabolite concentrations (C. racemosa, C. serrulata, and C. cupressoides) were preferred by Elysia tomentosa and Lobiger viridis. Oxynoe viridis and Stiliger smaragdinus had strong preferences for different low concentration Caulerpa species (C. racemosa var. laetevirens and C. lentillifera), suggesting not all feeding preferences are based exclusively on the major metabolites. In situ host associations of L. viridis and S. smaragdinus mirrored their feeding preferences, but this was not the case for E. tomentosa. Furthermore, those algal species with the highest and lowest metabolite concentrations had the lowest overall densities of sacoglossans. The results imply that the direct influence of quantitative variation in Caulerpa chemistry may only be limited to host associations in some sacoglossans. However, feeding pressure from multiple herbivore species with unique preferences could still contribute to variation in chemical defence amongst congeneric algae.


KEY WORDS: Caulerpa · Chemical cue · Coevolution · Dietary niche · Macroalgae · Opisthobranch · Plant–herbivore interactions · Congeneric variation


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Cite this article as: Baumgartner FA, Motti CA, de Nys R, Paul NA (2009) Feeding preferences and host associations of specialist marine herbivores align with quantitative variation in seaweed secondary metabolites. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 396:1-12. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08359

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