Inducible responses in the brown seaweed Ecklonia cava: the role of grazer identity and season
Markus Molis (tel. +49 4725 819 239; fax +49 4725 819 283; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
- 1Plants must either tolerate consumption or defend themselves against grazer attacks. Selection for phenotypically plastic antiherbivory responses has been suggested for many plants, including a few species of seaweed, but little is known about its specificity or seasonality.
- 2Multi-factorial experiments tested the effects of consumer identity (Littorina brevicula vs. Haliotis discus) and season (summer vs. autumn) on the induction of antiherbivory defences in the brown seaweed Ecklonia cava. Following a grazer-free acclimation phase, algae were incubated with grazers (treatment phase) and, subsequently, without grazers (recovery phase). Feeding preference assays, were used to assess differences in consumption rates between grazer-exposed and control plants.
- 3In summer, Littorina, but not Haliotis, induced defence in Ecklonia. This defence vanished by the end of the recovery phase. In autumn, neither exposure to direct attack nor to waterborne cues induced defensive responses.
- 4Both consumer identity and season of consumption can influence the ability of a given macroalgal species to induce antiherbivory defences. Tailoring such responses to spatial and temporal variation in grazer pressure could have profound ecological implications, for example changing food webs and community structure.