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Oecologia 2011 Jun 01;1662:381-90. doi: 10.1007/s00442-010-1830-y.
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Plant defences and the role of epibiosis in mediating within-plant feeding choices of seagrass consumers.

Vergés A , Alcoverro T , Romero J .

Within-plant variation in susceptibility to herbivory can significantly influence the ecological and evolutionary consequences of plant-herbivore interactions. Seagrasses are marine angiosperms characterised by substantial intra-individual differences in multiple traits, such as nutrients, chemical and structural defences and epibiotic load, all of which can strongly influence herbivore preferences. We quantified the within-plant feeding choices of the two main consumers of the temperate seagrass Posidonia oceanica--the fish Sarpa salpa and the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus--and determined the plant traits that explained their foraging strategies. We found strong within-plant heterogeneity in both seagrass susceptibility to herbivory and chemical composition, but different consumers exhibited contrasting feeding choices. S. salpa preferred the most nutritious and chemically defended younger leaves, suggesting a full adaptation to consuming this macrophyte and a greater impact of this herbivore on the plant. In contrast, P. lividus consistently preferred the older leaves covered by epibionts, probably attenuating the relative impact of this consumer and helping to explain the weak effects usually recorded for this echinoid in undisturbed meadows. Artificial diet experiments showed that morphology and fine-scale structural defences were the primary determinant of urchin feeding choices, with nutrient content and chemical defences being of secondary importance. Epibiosis did not strongly influence fish feeding, but it did have a strong ''shared-doom'' effect on urchin consumption. This effect was driven by a distinct preference towards a mixed diet that included both host tissues and their epibiotic community.

PubMed ID: 21053016
Article link: Oecologia

Genes referenced: impact LOC100887844

References [+] :
Becerro, Chemical defenses of the sacoglossan mollusk Elysia rufescens and its host Alga bryopsis sp. 2002, Pubmed