Differential herbivory of invasive algae by native fish in the Mediterranean Sea.
The potential role of generalist herbivores to serve as a source of biotic resistance against algal invasion in marine ecosystems has been poorly examined. The present study investigates the capacity of Mediterranean herbivorous fishes to consume three of the most invasive seaweeds of the Western Mediterranean (Caulerpa racemosa, Lophocladia lallemandii and Womersleyella setacea) and examines vertical and temporal variations of such consumption. Our results show that although fish feed throughout the depth gradient examined (5-35 m), they concentrate in shallow waters, and can consume high amounts of C. racemosa. Such high ingestion of C. racemosa does not appear to be random, since this alga is consistently chosen when offered in pairs with several native species. Conversely, L. lallemandii and W. setacea are barely eaten by fish even though they can be very abundant in the field throughout the year. Our results suggest that fish could be an important controlling agent that has been overlooked in temperate marine invasions, and they may be able to provide certain resistance to C. racemosa invasion. In contrast, they are unlikely to exert any important control effects on L. lallemandii or W. setacea.