Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 7, pp 1639–1652 | Cite as

Relevance of wound-activated compounds produced by diatoms as toxins and infochemicals for benthic invertebrates

  • Chingoileima Maibam
  • Patrick Fink
  • Giovanna Romano
  • Maria Cristina Buia
  • Maria Cristina Gambi
  • Maria Beatrice Scipione
  • Francesco Paolo Patti
  • Maurizio Lorenti
  • Emanuela Butera
  • Valerio ZupoEmail author
Original Paper


Plants evolve the production of wound-activated compounds (WACs) to reduce grazing pressure. In addition, several plant-produced WACs are recognized by various invertebrates, playing the role of infochemicals. Due to co-evolutionary processes, some invertebrates recognize plant infochemicals and use them to identify possible prey, detect the presence of predators or identify algae containing various classes of toxic metabolites. Different metabolites present in the same algae can play the role of toxins, infochemicals or both simultaneously. We investigated the infochemical activity of compounds extracted from three diatoms epiphytes of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica, by conducting choice experiments on invertebrates living in the same community or in close proximity. Furthermore, the specific toxicity of the extracts obtained from the same algae was tested on sea urchin embryos using a standard bioassay procedure, to detect the presence of toxins. The comparison of the two effects demonstrated that invertebrates are subjected to diatom wound-activated toxicants when these algae are not associated with their own habitat, but they are able to recognize volatile infochemicals derived from diatoms associated with their habitats. The specific toxicity of WACs was shown to be inversely correlated to the perceptive ability of invertebrates towards volatile compounds liberated by the same algae. Hence, when the recognition of specific algae by a given invertebrate species evolves, their detrimental effects on the receiving organism may be lost.


VOCs Odour Diatom Species Benthic Diatom Experimental Arena 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Our research was supported by a Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn PhD course, within the Open University fellowship to C. Maibam under the supervision of V. Zupo and by an EU Assemble Marine Grant (No. 1060/G6) to P. Fink. This work has been partially funded by the Flagship RITMARE—The Italian Research for the Sea—coordinated by the Italian National Research Council and funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. We acknowledge all the staff of the Benthic Ecology group of SZN for the assistance during the bioassays. Prof. M. De Stefano gave suggestions for the interpretation of diatom ecology and distribution in P. oceanica. Four anonymous reviewers definitely improved the quality of the original manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chingoileima Maibam
    • 1
  • Patrick Fink
    • 2
  • Giovanna Romano
    • 1
  • Maria Cristina Buia
    • 1
  • Maria Cristina Gambi
    • 1
  • Maria Beatrice Scipione
    • 1
  • Francesco Paolo Patti
    • 1
  • Maurizio Lorenti
    • 1
  • Emanuela Butera
    • 1
  • Valerio Zupo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Functional and Evolutionary Ecology LaboratoryStazione Zoologica Anton DohrnNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Cologne Biocenter, Workgroup Aquatic Chemical EcologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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