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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 465:25-31 (2012)  -  DOI:

Nutrient addition increases consumption rates of tropical algae with different initial palatabilities

Alvin Y. Chan*, Katie Lubarsky, Kaitlin N. Judy, Peggy Fong

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, 621 Young Drive South, Los Angeles, California 90095-1606, USA

ABSTRACT: While nutrient enrichment increases herbivory rates on highly palatable species of tropical algae, it is unclear how nutrient enrichment affects species with differing initial palatabilities. We determined that there was a wide range in relative palatability among 5 perennial and common species of Caribbean coral reef algae in a cafeteria-style choice experiment, with overall preference for Acanthophora spicifera the highest, Dictyota dichotoma and Caulerpa sertularioides intermediate, and Turbinaria turbinata and Sargassum polyceratium the lowest, although there were significant differences in grazing rates among algal species between the 2 fringing reef sites tested. We then tested the hypothesis that increased nutrient content in algae increases palatability using choice experiments between enriched and ambient algal samples for each of 3 species along this palatability gradient: A. spicifera, D. dichotoma, and S. polyceratium. For all species, herbivores selected enriched over ambient samples across the 2 sites despite contrasting herbivore guilds (i.e. dominated by sea urchin Diadema antillarum versus herbivorous fishes). However, despite increased palatability of enriched S. polyceratium, overall herbivory on this species was still relatively low compared to other studies, suggesting that S. polyceratium in this system may have stronger chemical defenses, or that a specialist herbivore guild may be missing on this Caribbean reef. Regardless of the mechanism, our study implies that anthropogenic or natural events that result in high supplies of nutrients in coral reef seawater will increase overall seaweed palatability, even of unpalatable species.

KEY WORDS: Tropical marine algae · Dictyota dichotoma · Sargassum polyceratium · Acanthophora spicifera · Herbivory · Nutrient enrichment

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Cite this article as: Chan AY, Lubarsky K, Judy KN, Fong P (2012) Nutrient addition increases consumption rates of tropical algae with different initial palatabilities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 465:25-31.

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