Effects of predator lipids on dinoflagellate defence mechanisms - increased bioluminescence capacity
Short flashes of blue light (bioluminescence) from dinoflagellates can reduce copepod grazing of light-emitting cells. Other protective strategies against grazing are toxicity, reduced cell chain length and altered swimming patterns in different phytoplankton. Both toxicity and bioluminescence capacity in dinoflagellates decrease in copepod-free cultures, but toxin production can be restored in response to chemical alarm signals from copepods, copepodamides. Here we show that strains of the dinoflagellates Lingulodinium polyedra and Alexandrium tamarense, kept in culture for 14 and 9 years respectively, are capable of increasing their total bioluminescence capacity in response to copepodamides. The luminescence response to mechanical stimulation with air bubbles also increases significantly in L. polyedra after exposure to copepodamides. Effects on size, swimming speed and rate of change of direction in L. polyedra and A. tamarense were not detected, suggesting that post-encounter mechanisms such as bioluminescence and toxin production may constitute the dominating line of defence in these taxa. To our knowledge, this study provides the first evidence of changes in bioluminescence physiology as a response to chemical cues from natural enemies and emphasizes the importance of bioluminescence as an anti-grazing strategy.