Selective suppression of in situ proliferation of scyphozoan polyps by biofouling
An increase in marine artificial constructions has been proposed as a major cause of jellyfish blooms, because these constructions provide additional substrates for organisms at the benthic stage (polyps), which proliferate asexually and release a large amount of free-swimming medusae. These hard surfaces are normally covered by fouling communities, the components of which have the potential to impede the proliferation of polyps. In this study, we report an in situ experiment of polyp survival of four large scyphozoan species found in East Asian marginal seas that were exposed to biofouling, a universal phenomenon occurring on marine artificial constructions. Our results showed that the polyps of three species (Nemopilema nomurai, Cyanea nozaki, and Rhopilema esculentum) attached to the artificial surfaces were completely eliminated by biofouling within 7-8months, and only those of moon jellyfish (Aurelia sp.1) in the upper layers could multiply on both artificial materials and other organisms (e.g., ascidians and bryozoans). Fouling-associated competition and predation and suppressed asexual reproduction of podocysts were observed to contribute to the loss of polyps. This study shows that the natural distribution of polyps is defined by the biofouling community that colonizes the surfaces of artificial constructions. Consequently, the contribution of marine constructions to jellyfish bloom is limited only to the ability of the jellyfish species to reproduce asexually through budding and inhabit solid surfaces of fouling organisms in addition to inhabiting original artificial materials. We anticipate that fragile polyps will colonize and proliferate in harsh environments that are deleterious to biofouling, and we propose special attention to polyps in antifouling practices for excluding the possibility that they occupy the available ecological space.
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