Effect of detachment on the palatability of two kelp species
Many species of macroalgae survive after becoming dislodged from their primary substratum, but little is known about their capacity to express anti-herbivore defences after detachment. We examined the effect of detachment on the relative palatability of the two kelp species Lessonia nigrescens and Macrocystis integrifolia to mesograzers. Laboratory and field experiments were conducted on the northern-central coast of Chile to investigate whether (i) time after detachment and (ii) grazing on detached and attached algae could trigger internal defence mechanisms in the algae, which may have acted as deterrents to grazing. In order to examine palatability, feeding assays were run after each experiment using fresh algal pieces and artificial food. Time after detachment had a significant influence on palatability of L. nigrescens but not of M. integrifolia. During the first 12 days of detachment, detached L. nigrescens held in grazer-free laboratory tanks were not significantly more palatable than attached conspecifics from the field but thereafter detached individuals became more palatable. Floating individuals of M. integrifolia showed no effect of detachment, indicating that this alga maintains its defence after detachment. An experiment conducted in the field confirmed these results for M. integrifolia. An additional laboratory experiment confirmed that attachment status plays an important role on algal defence reaction for L. nigrescens when exposed to grazers. Detached and previously grazed individuals of this species were less palatable than grazer-free control algae, but grazing had no effect on palatability of attached algae. Our results indicate that kelps have varying capacities for development of anti-grazing responses once they become detached, possibly depending on their capacity to float and survive after detachment.
Key wordsdefence dislodgement detachment floating macroalgae palatability
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