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Published in: Harmful Algae, Vol. 6, 2007.

Abstract

The functional and numerical responses of grazers are key pieces of information in predicting and modeling predator–prey interactions. It has been demonstrated that exposure to toxic algae can lead to evolved resistance in grazer populations. However, the influence of resistance on the functional and numerical response of grazers has not been studied to date. Here, we compared the functional and numerical responses of populations of the copepod Acartia hudsonica that vary in their degree of resistance to the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense. In common environment experiments carried out after populations had been grown under identical conditions for several generations, female copepods were offered solutions containing different concentrations of either toxic A. tamarense or the non-toxic green flagellate Tetraselmis sp. ranging from ∼25 to 500 μgC L1, and ingestion and egg production rates were measured. Throughout most of the range of concentrations of the toxic diet, copepod populations that had been historically exposed to toxic blooms of Alexandrium exhibited significantly higher ingestion and egg production rates than populations that had little or no exposure to these blooms. In contrast, there were no significant differences between populations in ingestion or egg production for the non-toxic diet. Hence, the between population differences in functional and numerical response to A. tamarense were indeed related to resistance. We suggest that the effect of grazer toxin resistance should be incorporated in models of predator and toxic prey interactions. The potential effects of grazer toxin resistance in the development and control of Alexandrium blooms are illustrated here with a simple simulation exercise.

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