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Interaction webs of marine specialist herbivores on Japanese shores

  • Cynthia D. Trowbridge (a1), Yayoi M. Hirano (a2) and Yoshiaki J. Hirano (a2) (a3)

Marine specialist herbivores inhabiting Japanese rocky shores are significantly more diverse than in other biogeographical regions at comparable latitudes. The interaction webs of specialist sacoglossans were investigated on the Pacific shore of Honshu, Japan. The host use of the small stenophagous sacoglossan opisthobranch Placida sp. (sensu Baba, 1986) was investigated in association with the green macroalgae Codium spp. Based on field associations, Placida sp. attacked six congeneric algal host species out of eight investigated (75%) in and around Sagami Bay and ten of 20 species (50%) in Japan. In pairwise-choice feeding experiments, Placida sp. preferred the algal host from which it was collected (source alga) to alternate host and non-host algae. Preference rankings, however, could be altered based on the condition or identity of the choices (e.g. old versus young fronds of C. fragile). Connectance values were lower in these high-diversity assemblages than in their low-diversity counterparts on other temperate shores (but these values may increase with additional study). The sacoglossan occasionally coexisted with two other common sacoglossan species (Elysia trisinuata and E. setoensis) and several other less common ones. However, interspecific feeding interactions appeared minor, with no discernible evidence of interference or exploitation competition. Despite the diverse assemblage of specialist sacoglossans feeding on Codium spp., these Japanese sacoglossans (1) had low niche differentiation, (2) were weak interactors with their hosts, and (3) had negligible intra-guild interactions.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: C.D. Trowbridge, Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, PO Box 1995, Newport, OR 97365, USA email:
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