MEPS 318:165-175 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps318165

Allelochemical defense against epibiosis in the macroalga Caulerpa racemosa var. turbinata

Sergey Dobretsov1, Hans-Uwe Dahms1, Tilmann Harder2, Pei-Yuan Qian1,*

1Department of Biology & Coastal Marine Laboratory, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR, PR China
2Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), University of Oldenburg, Carl von Ossiezkystr. 9–11, 26111 Oldenburg, Germany
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The abundance and diversity of microorganisms on the surface of the tropical green macroalga Caulerpa racemosa var. turbinata and the effect of algal surface and waterborne compounds on fouling organisms were investigated both in laboratory and field experiments. As shown via electron microscopic enumeration, the abundance of epibiotic bacteria and diatoms on algal frond surfaces was not significantly different from the reference biofilms harvested from stones in the C. racemosa habitat. The analysis of Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism of DNA from algal surface-associated bacterial communities revealed that despite a similar abundance of these bacteria, the community profile on algal frond surfaces differed significantly from that of inanimate, undefended substrates. These results suggest that the alga regulate the occurrence of certain bacterial ribotypes. This result was in accordance with the fact that different bacterial communities formed on the artificial substrata (i.e. Petri dishes) placed in the C. racemosa habitat and alga-free control sites. Neither C. racemosa conditioned seawater (CCW) nor hexane surface extracts affected the growth of bacterial isolates from biofilms. However, only CCW exhibited a toxic effect on the larvae of the fouling polychaete Hydroides elegans, and evoked abnormal larval development in a concentration-dependent fashion. At sublethal concentrations, the <1 kD fraction of CCW inhibited the larval settlement of H. elegans and the bryozoan Bugula neritina. Caulerpenyne, the prominent bioactive metabolite in the genus Caulerpa, was not detected in CCW by chromatographic procedures. Our data suggest that waterborne compounds other than caulerpenyne are involved in the chemical defense of the alga C. racemosa.

KEY WORDS: Caulerpa racemosa · Algae · Microbial communities · Larval settlement · Epibiosis · Antifouling · Chemical defense

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