The influence of predator community composition on photoprotective traits of copepods

May 16, 2022


The influence of predator community composition on photoprotective traits of copepods


Rebecca Oester, Ryan Greenway, Marvin Moosmann, Ruben Sommaruga, Barbara Tartarotti, Jakob Brodersen, Blake Matthews




Ecology and Evolution


Trait expression of natural populations often jointly depends on prevailing abiotic environmental conditions and predation risk. Copepods, for example, can vary their expression of compounds that confer protection against ultraviolet radiation (UVR), such as astaxanthin and mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs), in relation to predation risk. Despite ample evidence that copepods accumulate less astaxanthin in the presence of predators, little is known about how the community composition of planktivorous fish can affect the overall expression of photoprotective compounds. Here, we investigate how the (co-)occurrence of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) and threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) affects the photoprotective phenotype of the copepod Leptodiaptomus minutus in lake ecosystems in southern Greenland. We found that average astaxanthin and MAA contents were lowest in lakes with stickleback, but we found no evidence that these photoprotective compounds were affected by the presence of charr. Furthermore, variance in astaxanthin among individual copepods was greatest in the presence of stickleback and the astaxanthin content of copepods was negatively correlated with increasing stickleback density. Overall, we show that the presence and density of stickleback jointly affect the content of photoprotective compounds by copepods, illustrating how the community composition of predators in an ecosystem can determine the expression of prey traits that are also influenced by abiotic stressors.




ultraviolet radiation, UVR, photoproactive