, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 289-302

Are Tropical Herbivores More Resistant Than Temperate Herbivores to Seaweed Chemical Defenses? Diterpenoid Metobolites from Dictyota acutiloba as Feeding Deterrents for Tropical Versus Temperate Fishes and Urchins

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Because herbivory is more intense in the tropics, tropical seaweeds may be better defended against herbivory than are temperate seaweeds. A “diffuse” coevolutionary corollary to this hypothesis is that tropical herbivores should be more resistant to seaweed defenses than temperate herbivores because tropical herbivores more commonly encounter heavily defended seaweeds. We begin to test the latter prediction using three newly discovered diterpenoid secondary metabolites from the tropical brown alga Dictyota acutiloba. We tested the feeding deterrent properties of these compounds against common herbivorous fishes and sea urchins from warm-temperate North Carolina versus tropical Guam using standardized laboratory feeding assays. The temperate herbivores were deterred by lower concentrations of secondary metabolites than the tropical herbivores. In no case was a tropical herbivore more deterred by a compound than a temperate herbivore, suggesting that temperate herbivores may be more strongly affected by seaweed chemical defenses. Feeding by the temperate pinfish Lagodon rhomboides was significantly reduced by two of the three diterpenes at a concentration that was only 13–18% of the natural concentration found in the alga. Feeding by four species of tropical fishes (two parrotfishes and two surgeonfishes) was unaffected by metabolite concentrations that deterred the temperate fish. At 100% of natural concentrations, only one of the three compounds deterred the two parrotfishes, and none of the three compounds deterred the surgeonfishes. Contrasts between the temperate sea urchin Arbacia punctulata and the tropical sea urchin Diadema savignyi showed a similar pattern; low concentrations of acutilol A acetate strongly deterred the temperate, but not the tropical, urchin. Tropical herbivores appear more resistant than temperate herbivores to seaweed chemical defenses.