MEPS 490:79-90 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10446

Tolerance and sequestration of macroalgal chemical defenses by an Antarctic amphipod: a ‘cheater’ among mutualists

Margaret O. Amsler1, Charles D. Amsler1,*, Jacqueline L. von Salm2, Craig F. Aumack1,3, James B. McClintock1, Ryan M. Young2, Bill J. Baker

1Department of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-1170, USA
2Department of Chemistry, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620, USA
3Present address: Department of Biology and Paleo Environment, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York 10964-8000, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Shallow-water communities along the western Antarctic Peninsula support forests of large, mostly chemically defended macroalgae and dense assemblages of macroalgal-associated amphipods, which are thought to exist together in a community-wide mutualism. The amphipods benefit the chemically defended macrophytes by consuming epiphytic algae and in turn benefit from an associational refuge from fish predation. In the present study, we document an exception to this pattern. The amphipod Paradexamine fissicauda is able to consume Plocamium cartilagineum and Picconiella plumosa, 2 species of sympatric, chemically defended red macroalgae. In previous studies, Plocamium cartilagineum was one of the most strongly deterrent algae in the community to multiple consumers, and was found here to be unpalatable to 5 other amphipod species which utilize it as a host in nature. Paradexamine fissicauda maintained on a diet of Plocamium cartilagineum for 2 mo were much less likely to be eaten by fish than Paradexamine fissicauda maintained on a red alga which does not elaborate chemical defenses, or than a different but morphologically similar sympatric amphipod species. Halogenated secondary metabolites produced by Plocamium cartilagineum were identified from tissues of the Paradexamine fissicauda that had eaten it but not those which had eaten the undefended red alga. This indicates that P. fissicauda is sequestering the potent chemical defenses of Plocamium cartilagineum for its own use.


KEY WORDS: Chemical defenses · Macroalgae · Amphipods · Sequestration · Antarctic ecology


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Cite this article as: Amsler MO, Amsler CD, von Salm JL, Aumack CF, McClintock JB, Young RM, Baker BJ (2013) Tolerance and sequestration of macroalgal chemical defenses by an Antarctic amphipod: a ‘cheater’ among mutualists. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 490:79-90. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10446

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