Effect of Macrophyte Secondary Metabolites on Feeding Preferences of the Herbivorous Parrotfish Sparisoma Radians

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Experiments were conducted to test the role of secondary metabolites in determining the natural feeding preference hierarchy of the bucktooth parrotfish Sparisoma radians. The two least preferred food genera of S. radians, Halimeda and Penicillus, both contain 1,4-diacetoxy-1,3-butadiene terpenes, while the most preferred species, Thalassia testudinum, does not. Experiments with agar cylinders containing macrophyte homogenates showed that macrophyte biteability was not a factor. Instead preference could be altered by the application of the diacetoxybutadiene containing terpenes 4,9-diacetoxyudoteal and caulerpenyne or fractions or extracts containing them at naturally occurring concentrations. Concentration of the active terpenes affected the intensity of the fish's preference for the control in pairwise comparisons. Extracts and fractions which did not contain 4,9-diacetoxyudoteal or caulerpenyne did not affect fish feeding preferences at naturally occurring concentrations. Experiments in which S. radians were given no plant choice showed that coating T. testudinum with H. incrassata organic crude extract reduced the number of bites consumed and the biomass consumed to a level equivalent to that obtained for H. incrassata plants.

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Marine Biology: International Journal on Life in Oceans and Coastal Waters, v. 92, issue 1, p. 141-148