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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 483:143-151 (2013)  -  DOI:

Seaweed traits linked to wave exposure determine predator avoidance

Jeremy D. Long1,*, L. Porturas1, E. Jones1, C. Kwan1, G. C. Trussell2

1Department of Biology & Coastal Marine Institute Laboratory, San Diego State University, San Diego California 92182, USA
2Northeastern University Marine Science Center, Nahant, Massachusetts 01908, USA

ABSTRACT: Greater attention to habitat-specific species interactions should improve our ability to predict the context-dependency of species interactions. Predator avoidance depends upon resource traits that can vary predictably between habitats, but few studies have linked predator avoidance to habitat-specific resource traits. For example, predator avoidance in herbivores may depend upon wave exposure, because wave-exposed and wave-protected seaweeds display strong intraspecific differences in morphology and physiology that likely influence their value to herbivores. In 2 sets of laboratory mesocosm experiments we compared predator avoidance in the herbivorous snail Littorina obtusata offered the bladder wrack Fucus vesiculosus from either wave-exposed or protected shores. The effect of predation risk by the green crab Carcinus maenas on avoidance by L. obtusata depended on wave exposure, with a stronger effect of predation risk for snails on wave-exposed F. vesiculosus. To explore the traits responsible for this pattern, we conducted multi-choice feeding experiments with F. vesiculosus from 3 wave-exposed and 3 protected sites. F. vesiculosus from protected sites (where avoidance behaviors were weak) was more palatable than F. vesiculosus from wave-exposed sites. Although several morphological (e.g. blade width and vesicle number) and physiological traits (e.g. C:N ratio) of F. vesiculosus depended upon wave exposure, these were unrelated to snail feeding and predator avoidance. Therefore, L. obtusata displayed stronger predator avoidance on less palatable, wave-exposed seaweed. We suggest that the different effects of predators on rocky shores may partly reflect the influence of exposure-specific seaweed traits that determine predator avoidance.

KEY WORDS: Predation risk · Predator-prey interactions · Inducible defense · Non-consumptive effects

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Cite this article as: Long JD, Porturas L, Jones E, Kwan C, Trussell GC (2013) Seaweed traits linked to wave exposure determine predator avoidance. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 483:143-151.

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