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Keywords:

  • Antifouling;
  • chemical defense;
  • introduced species;
  • predation;
  • Tubastraea coccinea;
  • Tubastraea tagusensis

Abstract

The introduction of exotic marine species has caused considerable economic and ecological damage around the world. Some of these species possess adaptations such as secondary metabolites which facilitate their successful invasion into new areas. In this study we tested two hypotheses: (i) crude extracts produced by two invasive hard corals Tubastraea coccinea and Tubastraea tagusensis, introduced to the southwest Atlantic, inhibit predation by generalist fish; (ii) substances found in the crude extracts of both species reduce or enhance the settlement of other organisms. In an in situ palatability bioassay the extract of T. tagusensis reduced predation by generalist fish. The extracts of both species of coral showed species-specific effects on fouling organisms in in situ gel plate bioassays. Control and extract plates had similar total cover, although plates with extracts had significantly fewer Cladophora sp., and Lithophyllum sp. was only detected on control gels. In contrast, a hydrozoan was only found on plates with extracts and overall community ordination demonstrated clear differences in the fouling communities between treatments. These results demonstrate that both coral species have chemical substances which can bring about a negative interaction with potential fish predators and competitors such as algal and invertebrate foulers and the advantage gained could explain their success in invading new regions to the detriment of local fauna and flora.