Centropages typicus (Crustacea, Copepoda) reacts to volatile compounds produced by planktonic algae

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may play the role of infochemicals and trigger chemotaxis and ecologically relevant responses in freshwater and marine invertebrates. Aquatic grazers use these signals as chemical cues to trace the presence of their food or to detect their predators. However, detailed data are still needed to fully understand the role of these relationships in marine plankton. We investigated the ability of the copepod Centropages typicus to perceive the odour of three planktonic diatoms (Skeletonema marinoi, Pseudonitzschia delicatissima and Chaetoceros affinis) and a dinoflagellate (Prorocentrum minimum). This information is ecologically relevant for orientation, habitat selection, predator avoidance and communication. In addition, as the pH of the medium influences the perception of chemical cues in aquatic environments, we tested the effect of seawater acidification resulting from increasing levels of CO2, and its influences on the olfactory reactions of copepods. For this reason, our tests were repeated in normal (pH 8.10) and acidified (pH 7.76) seawater in order to simulate future ocean acidification scenarios. Using replicated chemokinetic assays we demonstrated that VOCs produced by Ps. delicatissima and Pr. minimum attract copepods at normal pH, but this effect is lowered in acidified water. By contrast, the odour of S. marinoi mainly induces a reaction of repulsion, but in acidified water and at higher concentrations this toxic diatom becomes attractive for copepods. Our experiments demonstrate, for the first time, that copepods are sensitive to the volatile compounds contained in various microalgae; VOCs prompt chemokinesis according to algal species and odour concentrations. However, seawater acidification induces changes in copepods’ perception of odours. These findings highlight the sensitivity of chemically mediated interactions to global changes.

Maibam C., Fink P., Romano G., Buia M. C., Butera E. & Zupo V., in press. Centropages typicus (Crustacea, Copepoda) reacts to volatile compounds produced by planktonic algae. Marine Ecology. Article (subscription required).

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