All of the theory and most of the data on the ecology and evolution of chemical defences derive from terrestrial plants, which have considerable capacity for internal movement of resources. In contrast, most macroalgae - seaweeds - have no or very limited capacity for resource translocation, meaning that trade-offs between growth and defence, for example, should be localised rather than systemic. This may change the predictions of chemical defence theories for seaweeds. We developed a model that mimicked the simple growth pattern of the red seaweed Asparagopsis armata which is composed of repeating clusters of somatic cells and cells which contain deterrent secondary chemicals (gland cells). To do this we created a distinct growth curve for the somatic cells and another for the gland cells using empirical data. The somatic growth function was linked to the growth function for defence via differential equations modelling, which effectively generated a trade-off between growth and defence as these neighbouring cells develop. By treating growth and defence as separate functions we were also able to model a trade-off in growth of 2-3% under most circumstances. However, we found contrasting evidence for this trade-off in the empirical relationships between growth and defence, depending on the light level under which the alga was cultured. After developing a model that incorporated both branching and cell division rates, we formally demonstrated that positive correlations between growth and defence are predicted in many circumstances and also that allocation costs, if they exist, will be constrained by the intrinsic growth patterns of the seaweed. Growth patterns could therefore explain contrasting evidence for cost of constitutive chemical defence in many studies, highlighting the need to consider the fundamental biology and ontogeny of organisms when assessing the allocation theories for defence. © 2014 Paul et al.
Paul, N. A., Svensson, C. J., De Nys, R., & Steinberg, P. D. (2014). Simple growth patterns can create complex trajectories for the ontogeny of constitutive chemical defences in seaweeds. PLoS ONE, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0086893