Invasive algae can have substantial negative impacts in their invaded ranges. One widely cited mechanism that attempts to explain how invasive plants and algae are often able to spread quickly, and even become dominant in their invaded ranges, is the Enemy Release Hypothesis. This study assessed the feeding behaviours of two species of gastropod herbivore from populations exposed to the invasive alga Sargassum muticum for different lengths of time. Feeding trials, consisting of both choice and no-choice, showed that the herbivores from older stands (35–40 years established) of S. muticum were more likely to feed upon it than those taken from younger (10–19 years established) stands. These findings provide evidence in support of the ERH, by showing that herbivores consumed less S. muticum if they were not experienced with it. These findings are in accordance with the results of other feeding-trials with S. muticum, but in contrast to research that utilizes observations of herbivore abundance and diversity to assess top-down pressure. The former tend to validate the ERH, and the latter typically reject it. The potential causes of this disparity are discussed, as are the importance of palatability, herbivore species and time-since-invasion when considering research into the ERH. This study takes an important, yet neglected, approach to the study of invasive ecology.
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