Palatability of macroalgae that use different types of chemical defenses

J Chem Ecol. 2006 Sep;32(9):1883-95. doi: 10.1007/s10886-006-9116-x. Epub 2006 Aug 12.


This study compared algal palatability and chemical defenses from subtropical green algae that may use different types of defense systems that deter feeding by the rock-boring sea urchin Echinometra lucunter. The potential defense systems present include (1) the terpenoid caulerpenyne and its activated products from Caulerpa spp., and (2) dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP)-related defenses in Ulva spp. Secondary metabolites from these chemical groups have been shown to deter feeding by various marine herbivores, including tropical and temperate sea urchins. Live algal multiple-choice feeding assays and assays incorporating algal extracts or isolated metabolites into an artificial diet were conducted. Several green algae, including Ulva lactuca, Caulerpa prolifera, and Cladophora sp., were unpalatable. Nonpolar extracts from U. lactuca deterred feeding, whereas nonpolar extracts from C. prolifera had no effect on feeding. Polar extracts from both species stimulated feeding. Caulerpenyne deterred feeding at approximately 4% dry mass; however, dimethyl sulfide and acrylic acid had no effect at natural and elevated concentrations. E. lucunter is more tolerant than other sea urchins to DMSP-related defenses and less tolerant to caulerpenyne than many reef fish. Understanding the chemical defenses of the algae tested in this study is important because they, and related species, frequently are invasive or form blooms, and can significantly modify marine ecosystems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Ulcer Agents / pharmacology*
  • Chlorophyta / drug effects*
  • Ecosystem
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Marine Toxins / pharmacology*
  • Sea Urchins / physiology
  • Sesquiterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Sulfonium Compounds / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Ulcer Agents
  • Marine Toxins
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Sulfonium Compounds
  • caulerpenyne
  • dimethylpropiothetin