, Volume 32, Issue 7, pp 1491-1500
Date: 23 May 2006

Chemical Defenses of Cryptic and Aposematic Gastropterid Molluscs Feeding on their Host Sponge Dysidea granulosa

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Numerous opisthobranchs are known to sequester chemical defenses from their prey and use them for their own defense. Information on feeding biology is critical for understanding the ecology and evolution of molluscs, yet information on feeding biology is still scarce for many groups. Gastropterid molluscs are often found on sponges, but there is controversy as to whether they are true sponge feeders. On Guam, we found the gastropterids Sagaminopteron nigropunctatum and S. psychedelicum on the sponge Dysidea granulosa. They seem to rely on contrasting defense strategies as S. psychedelicum has vivid colors, consistent with the warning coloration found in many chemically defended opisthobranchs, whereas S. nigropunctatum is highly cryptic on the sponge. S. nigropunctatum is avoided by the pufferfish Canthigaster solandri in aquarium assays. We analyzed the secondary metabolites of the two species and found that both share polybrominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs) with their host sponge D. granulosa. S. psychedelicum and S. nigropunctatum sequester the major BDE in the sponge and accumulate it in the mantle at approximately the same concentration as in the sponge (4.03 and 2.37%, respectively), and concentrate it in their parapodia at over twice the sponge concentration (7.97 and 10.10%, respectively). We also detected trace amounts in the mucus secretion of S. psychedelicum, and quantified significant amounts in the mucus (1.84%) and egg masses (2.22%) of S. nigropunctatum. Despite contrasting color patterns displayed by the two gastropterid species, they seem to share a similar chemical defense strategy, i.e., they feed on D. granulosa and accumulate the major BDE of the sponge in their tissues.