Conclusion

This study demonstrates how organisms can adjust to severe physical conditions by predominantly passive processes. Further adaptations on the tissue level or the biochemical composition of cell walls might be important factors for the mechanical fine-tuning of an individual to its habitat [19,22]. However, the main competitive factors, reconfiguration and morphological plasticity, are both directly linked to the indeterminate growth of Durvillaea. A main process of rapid adaptation to severe flow conditions is the passive reconfiguration of the flexible blade. In conjunction with the positive buoyancy of the blade, D. antarctica seems to possess a very high degree of adaptability to a great variety of flow conditions, which allows this species to occupy a larger range of habitats than D. willana. These adaptations act on a short to intermediate time scale (few seconds to one growth season), which is advantageous in a highly unsteady and unpredictable habitat like the intertidal. It can therefore be concluded that seemingly primitive organisms like Durvillaea are actually very well-adapted to their habitat by being less specialized.

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