It is widely assumed that the production of secondary metabolites against grazing and fouling is costly for seaweeds in terms of metabolic energy and should therefore be reduced under conditions of resource limitation. Here we tested the hypothesis that anti-herbivore defenses and bioactivity against mussels in 4 brown seaweeds from northern-central Chile will be reduced when light is limited. In a 2 wk experiment, seaweeds were kept under different low-light conditions (∼76 to 99% reduction of ambient sunlight) and grazing situations. Subsequently, we tested their antiherbivore defense against a common amphipod grazer in feeding assays with living algal tissue and reconstituted food pellets. A standard test employing the production of byssus threads by mussels was furthermore used as an indicator for deterrents in crude algal extracts. All investigated seaweeds showed decreased growth under the stepwise light reduction. Lessonia nigrescens exhibited reduced defense ability under severe low-light conditions when living tissue was offered to the amphipod, probably caused by changes in the tissue structure or in nutritional traits. In Dictyota kunthii, L. trabeculata and Macrocystis integrifolia this effect was absent. None of the investigated seaweeds showed a clear effect of light reduction on chemically mediated defenses against the mesograzer and there was no effect of light limitation on the bioactivity against mussels. Thus, against general assumptions, chemical defense in the investigated seaweeds does not appear to be reduced under severe resource limitation. Results suggest that seaweeds may use different strategies of energy allocation to cope with low-light conditions.
- Chemical defense
- Light limitation