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Keywords:

  • Antarctica;
  • chemotaxis;
  • epiphyte;
  • germination;
  • settlement;
  • spore

Most macroalgal species along the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) are defended against predation, many using chemical defenses. These subtidal communities are also mostly devoid of free living filamentous algae. However, one endo/epiphyte, Elachista antarctica, is found growing exclusively out of the palatable rhodophyte Palmaria decipiens. To understand this unusual and exclusive epiphytization, we tested whether macroalgal secondary metabolites such as those responsible for deterring sympatric grazers, affect the behaviors of the epiphyte's spores. Settlement, germination, and swimming behaviors of the epiphyte's motile spores were quantified in the presence of fractionated lipophilic and hydrophilic extracts of host P. decipiens and other rhodophytes from the shallow subtidal. Host P. decipiens was the only alga tested that did not inhibit spore settlement or germination. We also examined whether extracts from these chemically rich algae affect spore swimming behaviors and found spores to be chemotactically attracted to seawater soluble extract fractions of host P. decipiens. These results indicate that chemosensory behaviors of the epiphyte's spores to metabolites associated with these chemically defended macrophytes can explain this exclusive epiphyte–host interaction.