Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Effect of dietary history and algal traits on feeding rate and food preference in the green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis.

Abstract

Feeding behaviour is influenced by a variety of factors, including nutritional requirements, the quality of available foods, and environmental conditions. We examined the effect of two factors, food morphology and dietary history, on the feeding rate and preference of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. Standardizing food shape and structure did not alter urchins' expected preference for the native kelp Laminaria longicruris over the invasive alga Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides. However, when foods containing L. longicuris were shaped to mimic the algae, the C. fragile mimic was consumed more rapidly than the kelp mimic. Dietary history had no effect on single diet feeding rate. Urchins feeding on C. fragile consistently consumed twice as much (by mass) as those fed kelp, regardless of their previous diet. Despite higher feeding rates on C. fragile, urchins feeding on this alga were unable to compensate for its low energetic content and ingested less energy. Dietary history had a short-term effect on food preference, with urchins tending to prefer less familiar foods. Our findings suggest that urchins feed on C. fragile at a high rate, due to ease of handling and/or compensatory feeding, and that they do not a have strict preference hierarchy. Rather, food choice appears to reflect active maintenance of a mixed diet.