, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 31-36

Chemical studies on Indopacific Ceratosoma nudibranchs illuminate the protective role of their dorsal horn

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Two Ceratosoma species, C. trilobatum and C. gracillimum (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Opistobranchia), collected along the South China Sea coast, have been studied in order to investigate their defensive strategies. Both species contain four typical sponge furanosesquiterpenoids, probably with a dietary origin. The tissue distribution of these compounds has been studied by 1H-NMR analysis and preliminary bioassays have been carried out in order to evaluate the ecological role of the isolated metabolites. The main sesquiterpene component in both species was (–)-furodysinin (2), which showed significant feeding-deterrent and ichthyotoxic properties in bioassays with freshwater organisms. The work has been performed studying a very limited number of molluscs that prevented the realization of ecologically relevant experiments. However, the almost exclusive presence of compound 2 in the crude extract of the mantle glands concentrated in the dorsal horn of C. gracillimum strongly supports the defensive role of that dorsal protuberance, which probably acts as a defensive lure attracting potential predators to the part of the animal that contains the distasteful chemicals.