Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp 1115–1133

Polyphenols in brown algaeFucus vesiculosus andAscophyllum nodosum: Chemical defenses against the marine herbivorous snail,Littorina littorea


  • J. A. Geiselman
    • Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • O. J. McConnell
    • Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

DOI: 10.1007/BF00987632

Cite this article as:
Geiselman, J.A. & McConnell, O.J. J Chem Ecol (1981) 7: 1115. doi:10.1007/BF00987632


Polyphenols from two brown algae,Fucus vesiculosus (L.) andAscophyllum nodosum (L.) Le Jolis, inhibited feeding by the herbivorous snail,Littorina littorea. The active compounds were characterized as phloroglucinol polymers with a wide molecular weight range (mol wt <30,000 to >300,000) by spectroscopic, Ultrafiltration, thin-layer chromatographic, and chemical degradation data. As little as 1% (dry wt) polyphenol in food reduced feeding by more than 50%, and polyphenolic extracts inhibited feeding entirely when present in concentrations of 2–5% (dry wt). Commercially available phloroglucinol dihydrate and gallotannin, which are known herbivore feeding deterrents in terrestrial plants, inhibitedL. littorea feeding when added to food media in concentrations similar to those above. We conclude that polyphenols inF. vesiculosus andA. nodosum are functionally similar to terrestrial plant polyphenols (tannins) in providing chemical defenses against herbivores. This research is the first demonstration that chemical compounds defend these two dominant, perennial marine algae from the major herbivore found in their community.

Key words

Chemical defensefeeding deterrentspolyphenolsphloroglucinol polymersFucusAscophyllumLittorina

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1981