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28 December 2022 Stable Isotopes Reveal Algal Assimilation in the Carnivorous Sea Slug Pleurobranchaea maculata (Quoy & Gaimard, 1832) on Patagonian Coasts
Verena Bökenhans, David Galván, Gregorio Bigatti, Andrés Averbuj
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Abstract

Exotic species that achieve successful invasions often show considerable dietary plasticity in resource choice, sometimes adjusting their diet to new or variable resources. This can increase species' impact in the recipient environment. In this study, we explore the diet of the invasive gray side-gilled sea slug Pleurobranchaea maculata (Quoy & Gaimard, 1832) in two environments with contrasting presence of algae (different depths) on northern Patagonian coasts, by means of stable isotope analysis. Results showed the most probable prey contribution to the diet of shallow individuals of P. maculata to be algae, whereas colonial tunicates were the preferred prey in deep environments. Therefore, we suggest that P. maculata behaves as an omnivorous species in the receiving community, because it consumes and assimilates the algae, which represents a dietary shift compared to their original feeding habits (carnivorous). This species exhibited the ability to adapt to different dietary resources by showing significant differences in niche locations, niche breadth, and exhibiting little to no overlap between different environments, which supports the previous description of P. maculata as a generalist consumer. Pleurobranchaea maculata's dietary plasticity might drive ecological consequences in the invaded community. Thus, it is important to monitor for future changes in the benthic community to develop efficient programs for the management of this invasive voracious species.

Verena Bökenhans, David Galván, Gregorio Bigatti, and Andrés Averbuj "Stable Isotopes Reveal Algal Assimilation in the Carnivorous Sea Slug Pleurobranchaea maculata (Quoy & Gaimard, 1832) on Patagonian Coasts," Malacologia 65(1-2), 79-89, (28 December 2022). https://doi.org/10.4002/040.065.0106
Accepted: 23 May 2022; Published: 28 December 2022
KEYWORDS
alien species
dietary plasticity
isotopic niche breadth
Pleurobranchaeidae
resource availability
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