Stressed, but not defenceless: no obvious influence of irradiation levels on antifeeding and antifouling defences of tropical macroalgae
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The production of defence metabolites is assumed to be costly in metabolic terms. If this holds true, low-light stress should reduce the ability of seaweeds to defend themselves chemically against herbivory and fouling. We investigated the effect of energy limitation on the defensive status of seaweeds by assessing their attractiveness to mesograzers and their activity against a bivalve macrofouler in comparison with non-stressed conspecifics. The macroalgae Codium decorticatum (Woodw.) M. Howe, Osmundaria obtusiloba (C. Agardh) R. E. Norris, Pterocladiella capillacea (S. G. Gmel.) Santel. and Hommer., Sargassum vulgare C. Agardh and Stypopodium zonale (Lamour.) Papenf. collected at the southeastern Brazilian coast were exposed to six levels of irradiation (between 1 and 180 μmol photons m−2 s−1) for 10–14 days. After this period, algae from all treatment levels were: (a) processed as artificial food and offered to an amphipod community dominated by Elasmopus brasiliensis Dana and (b) extracted to test for differences in settlement rates of the fouling mussel Perna perna L. on filter paper loaded with the crude extracts. Generally, photosynthesis rates and growth were reduced under low light conditions. Attractiveness to herbivores and macrofoulers, however, was insensitive to energy limitation. We discuss possible explanations for the observed absence of a relationship between light availability and algal defence including the change in nutritional value of the algal tissue, the allocation of resources towards defence instead of growth and the absence of costs for defence.
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