Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 271–282

Evidence that Polyunsaturated Aldehydes of Diatoms are Repellents for Pelagic Crustacean Grazers


DOI: 10.1007/s10452-005-3419-9

Cite this article as:
Jüttner, F. Aquat Ecol (2005) 39: 271. doi:10.1007/s10452-005-3419-9


Evidence is given that odour compounds of diatoms serve as potential repellents for crustacean grazers. Novel repellent-test and odour-test apparatus allowed the determination of repellent activity of diatom derived compounds, activated by freezing and thawing or mechanical disintegration, and pure compounds, respectively. Epilithic diatom biofilms when activated, produced odour compounds that were determined by GC–MS to be polyunsaturated aldehydes (PUA). 2(E),4(Z),7(Z)-Decatrienal and 2(E),4(Z)-octadienal were the major compounds, and 2(E),4(Z)-heptadienal was a minor compound. These PUA were each accompanied by small amounts of the E,E-isomers in positions 2 and 4. 2(E),4(E),7(Z)-Decatrienal was the most active repellent tested and exhibited a RC50 value (indicating the concentration of a compound necessary for a 50% reduction of swimming crustaceans in the assay vial) of 3.5 μM in a defined water column. Quantitative analyses showed that upon activation diatom biofilms produced large amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) of which only a minor part was degraded to PUA. The major part of EPA was retained in the cells whilst the major part of PUA was released into the surrounding water. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that diatoms damaged by grazers develop free EPA in the cells that is toxic to grazers, and release PUA into the water that serve as warning signals to grazers. Diatoms and other phytoplankton species, that have the capacity to form these compounds, might benefit from such a reaction because the producers live in colonies or assemblages and the death of one cell liberates a cloud of repellent compounds into the water which reduces the grazing pressure on the remaining cells. Such activated defence reactions may help explain food selection and avoidance in freshwater and marine ecosystems.


Activated compound Crustaceans Decatrienal Diatoms Grazer Odour compound  Polyunsaturated aldehydes Repellent 

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Plant Biology/Limnological StationUniversity of ZürichKilchbergSwitzerland

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