Fear of predation may influence food webs more than actual predation. However, the mechanisms and magnitude of nonconsumptive predator effects are largely unknown in unicellular-dominated food webs such as marine plankton. We report a general mechanism of chemically induced predator effects in marine plankton. Copepods, the most abundant zooplankton in the oceans, imprint seawater with unique polar lipids—copepodamides—which trigger toxin production and bioluminescence in harmful dinoflagellates. We show that copepodamides also elicit defensive traits in other phytoplankton, inducing the harmful algal bloom-forming diatom Pseudo-nitzschia seriata to produce 10 times more toxins, and colony-forming diatoms to decrease colony size by half. A 1-year study in the northeast Atlantic revealed that natural copepodamide concentrations are high enough to induce harmful algal toxins and size reduction in dominant primary producers when copepods are abundant. We conclude that copepodamides will structure marine plankton toward smaller, more defended life forms on basin-wide scales.
Original Title: Copepods drive large-scale trait-mediated effects in marine plankton
Full Text of the Original Article: http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/5/2/eaat5096?rss=1