Who Cares More about Chemical Defenses — the Macroalgal Producer or Its Main Grazer?

Academic Article


  • The consequences of defensive secondary metabolite concentrations and interspecific metabolite diversity on grazers have been extensively investigated. Grazers which prefer certain food sources are often found in high abundance on their host and as a result, understanding the interaction between the two is important to understand community structure. The effects of intraspecific diversity, however, on the grazer are not well understood. Within a single, localized geographic area, the Antarctic red seaweed Plocamium sp. produces 15 quantitatively and qualitatively distinct mixtures of halogenated monoterpenes (“chemogroups”). Plocamium sp. is strongly chemically defended which makes it unpalatable to most grazers, except for the amphipod Paradexamine fissicauda. We investigated differences in the feeding and growth rates of both Plocamium sp. and P. fissicauda, in addition to grazer reproductive output, in relation to different chemogroups. Some chemogroups significantly reduced the grazer’s feeding rate compared to other chemogroups and a non-chemically defended control. The growth rate of Plocamium sp. did not differ between chemogroups and the growth rates of P. fissicauda also did not show clear patterns between the feeding treatments. Reproductive output, however, was significantly reduced for amphipods on a diet of algae possessing one of the chemogroups when compared to a non-chemically defended control. Hence, intraspecific chemodiversity benefits the producer since certain chemogroups are consumed at a slower rate and the grazer’s reproductive output is reduced. Nevertheless, the benefits outweigh the costs to the grazer as it can still feed on its host and closely associates with the alga for protection from predation.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Heiser S; Amsler CD; Brothers CJ; Amsler MO; Shilling AJ; Bozarth L; Davis CB; McClintock JB; Baker BJ
  • Start Page

  • 416
  • End Page

  • 430
  • Volume

  • 48
  • Issue

  • 4