Palatability of the Antarctic rhodophyte Palmaria decipiens (Reinsch) RW Ricker and its endo/epiphyte Elachista antarctica Skottsberg to sympatric amphipods

Academic Article


  • Although many macroalgae that occur throughout Western Antarctic Peninsular waters are known to produce defensive secondary metabolites that deter grazing, the rhodophyte, Palmaria decipiens is palatable to several sympatric meso- and macro-grazers. It has been hypothesized that high levels of mesoherbivory by amphipods may account for the conspicuous lack of filamentous epiphytes emerging from the thalli of marcophytes in this region. Nonetheless, Elachista antarctica is a filamentous phaeophyte found growing within, and emerging from the thallus of the rhodophyte P. decipiens. It is surprising that E. antarctica occurs exclusively in association with a palatable species of macroalgae considering the standing biomass of other chemically defended unpalatable species is very high. We tested the hypothesis that E. antarctica grows on P. decipiens due to the host's overwhelming palatability compared to that of the epiphyte. That is, the hypothesis that mesograzers prefer the host over the epiphyte, grazing around emerging filaments. Choice and no choice feeding assays with live tissues of E. antarctica and P. decipiens were conducted in three different trials with four sympatric amphipod species (Prostebbingia gracilis, Gondogeneia antarctica, Oradarea bidentata, and Paraphimedia integricauda) commonly found in association with P. decipiens. G. antarctica consumed both species but ate P. decipiens at a faster rate than the epiphyte in two of three trials. P. gracilis, O. bidentata, and P. integricauda fed on the epiphyte, E. antarctica at faster rates than upon P. decipiens. Aggressive grazing of the epiphyte by this suite of amphipods indicates that differences in palatability and differences in grazing pressure on host and epiphyte do not explain the exclusive epiphytism of E. antarctica on P. decipiens. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
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    Author List

  • Bucolo P; Amsler CD; McClintock JB; Baker BJ
  • Start Page

  • 202
  • End Page

  • 206
  • Volume

  • 396
  • Issue

  • 2