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A multifunctional chemical cue drives opposing demographic processes and structures ecological communities

Zimmer, Richard K., Ferrier, Graham A., Kim, Steven J., Kaddis, Catherine S., Zimmer, Cheryl Ann, Loo, Joseph A.
Ecology 2016 v.97 no.9 pp. 2232-2239
Balanus, animals, biodiversity, death, ecological function, glycoproteins, habitat preferences, immigration, larvae, predation, secretion, Pacific Ocean
Foundation species provide critical resources to ecological community members and are key determinants of biodiversity. The barnacle Balanus glandula is one such species and dominates space among the higher reaches of wave‐swept shores (Northeastern Pacific Ocean). This animal produces a cuticular glycoprotein (named “MULTIFUNCin”) of 199.6 kDa, and following secretion, a 390 kDa homodimer in native form. From field and lab experiments, we found that MULTIFUNCin significantly induces habitat selection by conspecific larvae, while simultaneously acting as a potent feeding stimulant to a major barnacle predator (whelk, Acanthinucella spirata). Promoting immigration via settlement on the one hand, and death via predation on the other, MULTIFUNCin drives opposing demographic processes toward structuring predator and prey populations. As shown here, a single compound is not restricted to a lone species interaction or sole ecological function. Complex biotic interactions therefore can be shaped by simple chemosensory systems and depend on the multifunctional properties of select bioactive proteins.