MEPS 165:293-305 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps165293

Rapid phlorotannin induction and relaxation in five Washington kelps

Kamille Hammerstrom1,*, Megan N. Dethier2, David O. Duggins2

1University of South Carolina, Marine Science Program, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA 2Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington, Friday Harbor, Washington 98250, USA
*Current address: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Marine Resources Research Institute, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA. E-mail:

Wounding of both terrestrial and marine plants is known to induce chemical responses in the plants; the induced compounds may defend against herbivory or act in wound-healing processes. We demonstrate here, for the first time, induction of phlorotannins in kelps (Phaeophyta, Laminariales), an important and widespread group of marine benthic algae. The rapid response of kelps to mechanical wounding contrasts with previously published work on other marine algae, where response has been slower. In 4 of the 5 species tested, induction (increases of approximately 30 to 90% of original levels) occurred very rapidly, within 1 to 3 d of wounding, although the magnitude and duration of the induction varied among species and tissue types. Many induced responses persisted for 5 to 7 d and then relaxed. Relaxation times are a critical component in the hypothesized cost-effectiveness of induced versus constitutive defenses, and this is one of the first attempts to measure relaxation times of chemical defenses in marine algae. The temporal persistence of the response suggests an anti-herbivory rather than a wound-healing function for induction of phlorotannins, although this needs further testing.


Kelp phlorotannins · Induction · Relaxation · Chemical defense · Wound healing · Herbivory


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