Grazer interactions with four species of Lyngbya in southeast Florida

Angela Capper*, Valerie J. Paul

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Blooms of the toxic cyanobacteria Lyngbya spp. have been increasing in frequency and severity in southeast Florida in recent years. Lyngbya produces many active secondary metabolites which often act as feeding deterrents to generalist herbivores, possibly increasing the longevity of these nuisance blooms. Whilst diverse arrays of small invertebrate consumers are often found in association with Lyngbya, little is known of their grazing selectivity among species of Lyngbya. This study examines the feeding preference of grazers for four local Lyngbya species (Lyngbya majuscula, Lyngbya confervoides, Lyngbya polychroa and Lyngbya spp.). Stylocheilus striatus and Haminoea antillarum showed no dietary selectivity between L. polychroa, L. majuscula and Lyngbya spp. in multiple choice feeding assays, whereas Bulla striata showed a distinct preference for L. polychroa (P < 0.001). To determine whether preference might be related to species-specific secondary metabolites, L. majuscula, L. confervoides and L. polychroa non-polar and polar extracts were incorporated into artificial diets and offered to a range of mesograzers. No significant difference was noted in feeding stimulation or deterrence amongst extracts and the controls for any of the grazers. When fed a monospecific diet of L. polychroa, S. striatus consumed more (P < 0.001) and attained a higher daily biomass (P = 0.004) than S. striatus fed L. confervoides. As L. polychroa and L. confervoides often co-exist on local coral reefs and yield dense numbers of S. striatus, host switching to a more palatable species of Lyngbya may have important implications regarding top-down control of local blooms leading to proliferation of one species and decimation of another. S. striatus fed a diet of L. polychroa consumed more (P = 0.003), had a greater increase in body mass (P = 0.020) and higher conversion efficiency (P = 0.005) than those fed L. confervoides regardless of host origin. Possible explanations for host switching between species of Lyngbya related to morphology, toxicity and nutrient requirements for growth are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-728
Number of pages12
JournalHarmful Algae
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008


  • Cyanobacteria
  • Feeding preference
  • Host switching
  • Nutrients
  • Secondary metabolites
  • Top-down control
  • Toxins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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