Trade-offs between predation risk and growth benefits in copepods Eurytemora affinis with contrasting pigmentation
Intraspecific variation in body pigmentation is an ecologically and evolutionary important trait; however, the pigmentation related trade-offs in marine zooplankton are poorly understood. We tested the effects of intrapopulation phenotypic variation in the pigmentation of the copepod Eurytemora affinis on predation risk, foraging, growth, metabolic activity and antioxidant capacity. Using pigmented and unpigmented specimens, we compared (1) predation and selectivity by the invertebrate predator Cercopagis pengoi, (2) feeding activity of the copepods measured as grazing rate in experiments and gut fluorescence in situ, (3) metabolic activity assayed as RNA:DNA ratio in both experimental and field-collected copepods, (4) reproductive output estimated as egg ratio in the population, and (5) total antioxidant capacity. Moreover, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) COI gene variation was analysed. The pigmented individuals were at higher predation risk as evidenced by significantly higher predation rate by C. pengoi on pigmented individuals and positive selection by the predator fed pigmented and unpigmented copepods in a mixture. However, the antioxidant capacity, RNA:DNA and egg ratio values were significantly higher in the pigmented copepods, whereas neither feeding rate nor gut fluorescence differed between the pigmented and unpigmented copepods. The phenotypic variation in pigmentation was not associated with any specific mtDNA genotype. Together, these results support the metabolic stimulation hypothesis to explain variation in E. affinis pigmentation, which translates into beneficial increase in growth via enhanced metabolism and antioxidant protective capacity, together with disadvantageous increase in predation risk. We also suggest an alternative mechanism for the metabolic stimulation via elevated antioxidant levels as a primary means of increasing metabolism without the increase in heat absorbance. The observed trade-offs are relevant to evolutionary mechanisms underlying plasticity and adaptation and have the capacity to modify strength of complex trophic interactions.