, Volume 514, Issue 1-3, pp 79-85

Food and habitat choice of the isopod Idotea baltica in the northeastern Baltic Sea

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Abstract

The isopod Idotea baltica is the most important benthic herbivore in the Baltic Sea. There exists a significant correlation between the distribution of the adult isopod and the belts of bladder wrack Fucus vesiculosus. However, following the eutrophication induced blooms of the filamentous macroalga Pilayella littoralis and the disappearance of F. vesiculosus a notable increase in idoteid abundances has been observed. The aim of this paper was (1) to evaluate experimentally whether F. vesiculosus provides either food, shelter or both to the isopods and (2) to estimate the role of associated filamentous algae in the habitat selection process. Amongst six abundant macroalgal species, about 50% of isopod population was attracted to F. vesiculosuscovered with the filamentous algae P. littoralis. The majority of the remaining part of the population was either swimming freely or attracted to non-epiphytic P. littoralis. When both live algae and artificial substrata were provided, P. littoralis growing on artificial substrata was clearly preferred by the isopods over epiphyte-free F. vesiculosus. In the grazing experiment where I. baltica was allowed to choose between F. vesiculosus and P. littoralis the latter contributed practically 100% of the diet of the isopod. The results indicate the importance of P. littoralis as a food item and F. vesiculosus as a shelter for I. baltica.