Feeding preferences of the sandhopper Orchestoidea tuberculata: The importance of algal traits

C. Duarte, J. M. Navarro, K. Acuña, I. Gómez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Factors such as nutritional quality and the secondary metabolite content of food resources have been shown to influence the feeding behavior of herbivores in many marine habitats. For intertidal macroalgae consumers on sandy beaches, the influence of these factors on feeding behavior and the consequences on their performance is poorly understood. In this study, we evaluated the relationships of nutritional quality, chemical defenses (phlorotannins), and the structure of three macroalgal species that form the bulk of imported wrack subsidies to beaches in southern Chile, with the feeding behavior, absorption efficiency, and growth rate of the talitrid amphipod Orchestoidea tuberculata, one of the most abundant organisms in this environment. The amphipods preferred Durvillaea antarctica over Lessonia nigrescens and Macrocystis pyrifera when simultaneously offered fresh pieces of each alga. Similar results were observed when artificial food made of dry powdered algae of each species was provided, suggesting that the structure of these three algae did not influence preference. The performance of amphipods when reared on a diet of a single algal species matched feeding preferences; higher growth rates were observed in treatments with the preferred alga, D. antarctica. These results imply that D. antarctica is a superior food item for O. tuberculata when compared to L. nigrescens or M. pyrifera, and also that the alga's intrinsic quality (i. e., not structure) may influence dietary preference in these consumers. The higher content of proteins and carbohydrates found in D. antarctica may explain why this macroalga represents better quality food for O. tuberculata. Phlorotannin content did not have obvious negative effects on diet choice or growth, as D. antarctica, the alga with greater content of these secondary metabolites, was preferred and associated with higher growth rates of O. tuberculata. However, it is necessary to emphasize that the low phlorotannins concentrations registered in the three macroalgae species examined in this study, may not have been sufficient to deter O. tuberculata. When the amphipods were fed with each alga individually, they consumed significantly higher quantities of D. antarctica, which suggests that O. tuberculata did not eat more to compensate for the lower nutritional quality of the other algal species in order to maintain growth. Nor was compensation for lower food quality achieved by increasing absorption efficiency. Our results imply that the composition of the macroalgae arriving on the beach can significantly affect the performance and subsequent life history traits of O. tuberculata and by extension other amphipod species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-303
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


  • Algae
  • Amphipod
  • Feeding preference
  • Food quality
  • Performance
  • Sandy beaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Feeding preferences of the sandhopper Orchestoidea tuberculata: The importance of algal traits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this