Discipline: Ecology Environmental and Earth Sciences
Room: Exhibit Hall
Demi Carballosa - Florida International University
Co-Author(s): Dr. Katie Dobkowski, Bates College, Lewiston, ME.
Symbiotic relationships are a fluid part of all ecosystems; these interactions occur when two species’ biological relationships contribute to their respective roles. Kelp forests are biodiverse habitats that are home to a multitude of vertebrate and invertebrate species. One of the most common and dominant grazers of kelp forests is the Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, the green sea urchin. S. droebachiensis feed on various seaweed species, including the kelp Agarum fimbriatum. The epiphytic bryozoan, Membranipora membranacea, often lives on the same blades of the kelp on which green sea urchins feed. We quantified S. droebachiensis’ herbivorous relationship with kelp, investigating the symbiotic interaction between A. fimbriatum and M. membranacea. We used laboratory feeding experiments to assess urchin growth and feeding on kelp with and without encrusting bryozoans. Our observation of increased urchin feeding on bryozoan-encrusted kelp blades suggests that M. membranacea may have a parasitic relationship with the kelp A. fimbriatum, possibly deriving benefit at the kelp’s expense. Still, we were not able to detect a statistically significant difference in urchin growth between the two diets. In choice feeding experiments, the urchins did display a significant preference for a diet of kelp with bryozoan colonies present. Continued analysis of the interaction between A. fimbriatum and M. membranacea will help further explain this symbiotic relationship and how it has affected and may continue to influence kelp forest ecosystems.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): NSF REU-BLINKS Program. DBI-2149705.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Katie Dobkowski, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I was responsible for all aspects of this research with the support of my mentor. Everything from experimental design to data analysis was completed and supported by both my mentor and myself.