The role of chemical antifouling defence in the invasion success of Sargassum muticum: a comparison of native and invasive brown algae.
Competition and fouling defence are important traits that may facilitate invasions by non-indigenous species. The 'novel weapons hypothesis' (NWH) predicts that the invasive success of exotic species is closely linked to the possession of chemical defence compounds that the recipient community in the new range is not adapted to. In order to assess whether chemical defence traits contribute to invasion success, anti-bacterial, anti-quorum sensing, anti-diatom, anti-larval and anti-algal properties were investigated for the following algae: (a) the invasive brown alga Sargassum muticum from both, its native (Japan) and invasive (Germany) range, (b) the two non- or weak invasive species Sargassum fusiforme and Sargassum horneri from Japan, and (c) Fucus vesiculosus, a native brown alga from Germany. Crude and surface extracts and lipid fractions of active extracts were tested against common fouling organisms and zygotes of a dominant competing brown alga. Extracts of the native brown alga F. vesiculosus inhibited more bacterial strains (75%) than any of the Sargassum spp. (17 to 29%). However, Sargassum spp. from Japan exhibited the strongest settlement inhibition against the diatom Cylindrotheca closterium, larvae of the bryozoan Bugula neritina and zygotes of the brown alga F. vesiculosus. Overall, extracts of S. muticum from the invasive range were less active compared to those of the native range suggesting an adaptation to lower fouling pressure and competition in the new range resulting in a shift of resource allocation from costly chemical defence to reproduction and growth. Non-invasive Sargassum spp. from Japan was equally defended against fouling and competitors like S. muticum from Japan indicating a necessity to include these species in European monitoring programs. The variable antifouling activity of surface and crude extracts highlights the importance to use both for an initial screening for antifouling activity.