Sex-related differential mortality of a marine copepod exposed to a toxic dinoflagellate
Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(6), 2008, 2627-2635 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.6.2627
ABSTRACT: In this study we hypothesized that the sexes of the copepod Acartia hudsonica experience different mortalities when exposed to the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense. In laboratory experiments, we manipulated toxin dose and measured sex-specific mortality. We also used a split-family design to determine whether there were genetic influences on sex determination, and therefore on sex ratio. When the dose of the toxic alga was high (25% of diet by carbon content), population mortality was high, and the fraction of males surviving to adulthood was low (20-30% of the adult population). No such effect was observed when A. fundyense comprised only 10% of the diet. Adult male copepods were also more susceptible to the toxic alga, though prior selection for resistance to toxins also had an effect on mortality. No genetic variation for sex ratio was detected in the split-family experiment. Males of A. hudsonica are more sensitive to the toxins of A. fundyense than are females. Resistance may be sex-linked, and copepod populations exposed to a bloom of toxic Alexandrium sp. may experience shifts in sex ratios away from males and toward females. Differential mortality and skewed sex ratios are feedback mechanisms potentially affecting both the population dynamics of grazers and the development of toxic algal blooms.