Marine Toxins: An Overview

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Abstract

Oceans provide enormous and diverse space for marine life. Invertebrates are conspicuous inhabitants in certain zones such as the intertidal; many are soft-bodied, relatively immobile and lack obvious physical defenses. These animals frequently have evolved chemical defenses against predators and overgrowth by fouling organisms. Marine animals may accumulate and use a variety of toxins from prey organisms and from symbiotic microorganisms for their own purposes. Thus, toxic animals are particularly abundant in the oceans. The toxins vary from small molecules to high molecular weight proteins and display unique chemical and biological features of scientific interest. Many of these substances can serve as useful research tools or molecular models for the design of new drugs and pesticides. This chapter provides an initial survey of these toxins and their salient properties.