Updating Plakobranchus cf. ianthobapsus (Gastropoda, Sacoglossa) host use: diverse algal-animal interactions revealed by NGS with implications for invasive species management.
Sacoglossa, the "sap sucking" sea slugs, are highly specialized herbivores and the only metazoans that exhibit kleptoplasty, the sequestration and retention of chloroplasts from algae. Plakobranchus is one of the most generalistic herbivores within this order, with as many as 12 reported "algal host" (i.e. kleptoplast source) species. However, kleptoplast diversity studies conducted on Plakobranchus to date most likely underestimated the full diversity of kleptoplast sources within the studied populations due to limitations of the molecular techniques employed. Here, we apply a high throughput sequencing technique to assess kleptoplast diversity of Plakobranchus cf. ianthobapsus' from 10 sites across the Main Hawaiian Islands during winter and summer seasons. In so doing, we effectively used P. cf. ianthobapsus as a novel sampling tool to explore diminutive algal communities, including the current distribution of the invasive alga "Avrainvillea amadelpha." Our results show that P. cf. ianthobapsus sequesters chloroplasts from 23 algal species from across the siphonous green algal order Bryopsidales. We identified "Avrainvillea amadelpha" and Codium edule as new host species for P. cf. ianthobapusus, but their rarity among the data suggests they were most likely less preferential as hosts and were possibly utilized due to low abundance or unavailability of more preferable species, and therefore a response to starvation risk. Additionally, the identification of the highly invasive siphonous green alga "A. amadelpha" as a kleptoplast source provides new fine-scale range and distribution data for this problematic species. Overall kleptoplast diversity does not differ among sites, except in a coral-dominated, (i.e. not algal dominated) environment, suggesting that siphonous algal assemblages are common in algal-dominated ecosystems in the Hawaiian Islands. Diversity dissimilarity among seasons was recovered from the majority of sites sampled, supporting the need for seasonal data collection in algal diversity assessments. This case study using metabarcoding of sacoglossan kleptoplasts provides deeper insights into these plant-animal interactions with a better understanding of host use than previous studies using traditional molecular methods and illustrates how algal diversity studies on the scale of plastids can have implications for understanding algal community structure and invasive species dynamics.