Feeding preferences of mesograzers on aquacultured Gracilaria and sympatric algae

Aquaculture. 2011 Dec 21;322(323):218-222. doi: 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2011.09.035.


While large grazers can often be excluded effectively from algal aquaculture operations, smaller herbivores such as small crustaceans and gastropods may be more difficult to control. The susceptibility of three Gracilaria species to herbivores was evaluated in multiple-choice experiments with the amphipod Ampithoe ramondi and the crab Acanthonyx lunulatus. Both mesograzers are common along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. When given a choice, the amphipod preferred to consume Gracilaria lemaneiformis significantly more than either G. conferta or G. cornea. The crab, however, consumed equivalent amounts of G. lemaneiformis and G. conferta, but did not consume G. cornea. Organic content of these algae, an important feeding cue for some mesograzers, could not account for these differences. We further assessed the susceptibility of a candidate species for aquaculture, G. lemaneiformis, against local algae, including common epiphytes. When given a choice of four algae, amphipods preferred the green alga Ulva lactuca over Jania rubens. However, consumption of U. lactuca was equivalent to those of G. lemaneiformis and Padina pavonica. In contrast, the crab showed a marked and significant preference for G. lemaneiformis above any of the other three algae offered. Our results suggest that G. cornea is more resistant to herbivory from common mesograzers and that, contrary to expectations, mixed cultures or epiphyte growth on G. lemaneiformis cannot reduce damage to this commercially appealing alga if small herbivores are capable of recruiting into culture ponds. Mixed cultures may be beneficial when culturing other Gracilaria species.