Gagnon, P.; St-Hilaire-Gravel, L.V.; Himmelman, J.H.; Johnson, L.E. (2006). Organismal defenses versus environmentally mediated protection from herbivores: Unraveling the puzzling case of Desmarestia viridis (Phaeophyta). Journal Of Experimental Marine Biology And Ecology. 334 (1) 10-19.
the role of anti-herbivore organismal defenses in algae-herbivore interaction is frequently investigated without taking into account the potential role of environmental factors in mediating the interaction. here we reexamine the interaction between the highly acidic, brown alga desmarestia viridis and the green sea urchin, strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, by incorporating a previously overlooked facet, the effect of changes in the wave environment on the ability of the urchin to establish contact with the alga. factorial experiments in a wave tank (presence versus absence of waves; real versus mimic algae) showed that the aggregation of urchins on d. viridis was more than 2-fold greater in the absence than in the presence of waves. similar numbers of urchins made contact with natural and mimic d. viridis plants, both with and without waves, indicating that any external release of chemicals (acid) from the alga had no perceptible repulsive effect on the urchin. the ability of the urchins to climb onto d. viridis increased markedly when urchin density attained a critical level. these results were consistent with field observations that urchins readily attack d. viridis under conditions of low wave action but do not under conditions of moderate wave action. we conclude (1) that the chemical makeup of d. viridis alone is neither necessary nor sufficient to limit contacts by the urchins and that (2) wave action is a major factor explaining the survival of d. viridis on urchin barrens, because waves limit the movements of the urchins towards the alga. we recommend that studies addressing marine algal defenses against herbivores be more comprehensive and examine interactions between algal traits, the physical environment, and the abundance and behavioral repertoire of herbivores. (c) 2006 elsevier b.v. all rights reserved.