Some seaweed species have been shown to release water-borne cues after herbivore attack, for example, to attract natural enemies of the herbivore. These cues may also be sensed by neighboring seaweeds and used to adjust their defenses in anticipation of a possible herbivore attack. Several studies indicated information transfer between seaweed individuals in the past, including the brown seaweed Fucus vesiculosus. Previous work showed induction of defenses in F. vesiculosus in response to water-borne cues released by isopod-grazed conspecifics. In contrast, another study on induced responses after exposure to cues from isopod-grazed neighbors using the same seaweed species yielded contradictory results. This study reassessed the ability of F. vesiculosus individuals to sense water-borne cues released by isopod-grazed neighbors in a series of experiments that monitored F. vesiculosus palatability in response to direct grazing by Idotea baltica and water-borne cues from isopod-grazed neighbors relative to unmanipulated seaweed pieces. Two-choice feeding assays were conducted with both fresh and reconstituted seaweed pieces. Direct grazing by I. baltica induced a chemical defense in F. vesiculosus, confirming results of previous studies. In contrast, evidence for increased herbivore resistance in seaweed pieces that were located downstream of isopod-grazed F. vesiculosus could not be provided. The lack of defense induction in response to grazing of conspecific neighbors may be explained by the environmental conditions and the scattered distribution of F. vesiculosus individuals in the intertidal zone of Helgoland, which may render resource investment in the emission and/or response to water-borne cues at this site unprofitable.
AWI Organizations > Biosciences > Ecological Chemistry