MEPS 337:165-174 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps337165

Chemical inhibition of barnacle larval settlement by the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus

Elisabet Brock*, Göran M. Nylund, Henrik Pavia

Department of Marine Ecology, Göteborg University, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory, 45296 Strömstad, Sweden

ABSTRACT: The possible importance of larval settlement inhibition by Fucus vesiculosus in explaining the low abundance of the barnacle Balanus improvisus on algal fronds compared to adjacent rock was investigated by a combination of field and laboratory studies. A field survey showed that the abundance of adult barnacles was significantly lower on F. vesiculosus than on rocks and settlement preference experiments strongly suggested that settlement avoidance for algal fronds during the natural settlement season was chemically mediated. By using a multi-step approach, whereby both exuded and surface associated metabolites were tested on larval settlement, we further investigated the possible existence of chemical antifouling processes in F. vesiculosus. For exuded metabolites, seawater was conditioned for 1 and 3 h with both submerged and desiccated algae. Surface extracts at natural concentrations and seawater conditioned with submerged algae had no significant effect on larval settlement, although there was a tendency for reduced settlement in the 3 h samples. Seawater conditioned with desiccated algae consistently inhibited settlement and chemical analyses showed that the mean phlorotannin level in the water was 31.5 µg ml–1, which is ca. 30× higher than concentrations previously shown to inhibit barnacle settlement. Seawater conditioned with submerged algae had a mean phlorotannin content of 0.85 µg ml–1 and in samples conditioned for 3 h there was a strong and significant negative relationship between phlorotannin concentration and larval settlement, suggesting that the phlorotannin concentration varied around a level inhibitory to barnacle settlement. Altogether, the results from the laboratory experiments strongly suggested that the low larval preference for algae was caused by exudation of waterborne metabolites, primarily phlorotannins. Finally, field measurements showed that phlorotannins exuded from F. vesiculosus can under natural conditions reach concentrations inhibitory to settlement of barnacle larvae.

KEY WORDS: Fucus vesiculosus · Phlorotannins · Chemical defence · Fouling · Barnacles · Balanus improvisus · Exudation · Desiccation

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