Genetic and environmental variation in performance of a marine isopod: effects of eutrophication
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Environmental variation in food resources modifies performance of herbivores, in addition to genetic variation and maternal effects. In marine benthic habitats, eutrophication may modify herbivores’ diets by changing host species composition or nutritional quality of algae for herbivores. We studied experimentally the effects of diet breadth and nutrient availability for the host algae on fitness components of the herbivorous isopod Idotea baltica. We fed the adult isopods with the brown algae Fucus vesiculosus and Pilayella littoralis and juveniles with the green alga Cladophora glomerata. By using half-sib families, we were able to separate the genetic, environmental and maternal effects on intermolt duration and size of the juveniles. The mothers confined to the diet consisting of both Fucus and Pilayella grew better and produced larger egg mass than those having consumed Fucus alone. Nutrient enhancement of algae did not influence the performance of the adult herbivores. However, the juveniles achieved twice the weight as well as shorter intermolt duration when consuming nutrient-treated C. glomerata. Mother’s nutrition, either nutrient enrichment of her food algae or diet breadth, did not affect juvenile survival or growth as such, but we found evidence that the broader diet consumed by the mother mediated offspring performance by further accelerating growth rate of the offspring that fed on nutrient-treated alga. Intermolt duration was a highly heritable trait, but size showed very low heritability. Instead, maternal effects on size were substantial, suggesting that differences among mothers in their egg-provisioning ability strongly affect weight gain of their offspring. A high amount of additive genetic variance in intermolt duration implies potential for quick evolutionary responses in the growth schedule in the face of changes in the selective environment. We conclude that eutrophication, in addition to improving growth and reproduction of I. baltica by enhancing food quality and by providing opportunity for broader, more profitable diets, may act as a selective agent on life-history traits. Eutrophication of coastal waters is thus likely to reflect in herbivore density, population dynamics and eventually, grazing pressure of littoral macroalgae.