Chemical defence of the soft coral Parerythropodium fulvum (Forskal) in the Red Sea against generalist reef fish

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Abstract

Laboratory feeding assays comparing chemical and sclerite deterrence capabilities of Parerythropodium fulvum revealed that the organic extract deterred feeding by the generalist reef fish Thalassoma klunzingeri (Fowler and Steinitz) and T. lunare (Linnaeus), whereas the sclerites were palatable. The mean number of pellets, containing natural extract concentration as in the living coral, eaten by the test fish was 0.25 ± 0.43, while the mean number of sclerite pellets was 7.0 ± 1.58 out of 10 pellets offered. Extracts of the two colour morphs of the studied species taken from colonies from both shallow and deep reefs deterred feeding by the wrasses even at concentrations as low as 12.5% of the natural concentration present in the coral. Feeding experiments using extracts of embryos of the P. f. fulvum yellow morph revealed that they are chemically protected against predation. A higher level of deterrence was found with extracts of embryos combined with the mucus in which they are embedded. The present study shows that effective defence against predation in the surface-brooded embryos of P. fulvum is accomplished by the aggregation of chemically defended embryos, embedded within mucus possessing predator repellent properties; and by the close proximity of the brood to the chemically defended parent colony.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-137
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Volume238
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 1999

Keywords

  • Chemical defence
  • Embryos
  • Feeding deterrence
  • Octocorallia
  • Parerythropodium f fulvum
  • Red Sea

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