Aldehyde suppression of copepod recruitment in blooms of a ubiquitous planktonic diatom

Ecophysiology Laboratory, Stazione Zoologica A. Dohrn, Villa Comunale, 80121 Naples, Italy. The growth cycle in nutrient-rich, aquatic environments starts with a diatom bloom that ends in mass sinking of ungrazed cells and phytodetritus. The low grazing pressure on these blooms has been attributed to the inability of overwintering copepod populations to track them temporally. We tested an alternative explanation: that dominant diatom species impair the reproductive success of their grazers. We compared larval development of a common overwintering copepod fed on a ubiquitous, early-blooming diatom species with its development when fed on a typical post-bloom dinoflagellate. Development was arrested in all larvae in which both mothers and their larvae were fed the diatom diet. Mortality remained high even if larvae were switched to the dinoflagellate diet. Aldehydes, cleaved from a fatty acid precursor by enzymes activated within seconds after crushing of the cell, elicit the teratogenic effect. This insidious mechanism, which does not deter the herbivore from feeding but impairs its recruitment, will restrain the cohort size of the next generation of early-rising overwinterers. Such a transgenerational plant-herbivore interaction could explain the recurringly inefficient use of a predictable, potentially valuable food resource--the spring diatom bloom--by marine zooplankton.

Published in:
Nature, 429, 6990, 403-407

 Record created 2006-02-15, last modified 2018-01-27

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