Plankton bloom and copepods
Photo: Erik Selander

Signals in the Sea – Pelagic chemical ecology

Research group
Active research
Project owner
Department of Marine Sciences

Swedish Research Council VR, Swedish Research Council FORMAS & Olle Engkvist Foundation

Short description

Signals in the Sea performs hypothesis driven research in pelagic chemical ecology. We isolate and identify signal molecules, explore how they are transmitted and what effect they have in the responding organisms and in the pelagic ecosystem. The project is multicisciplinary, with chemists and biologists working together on the same research questions.

Participating researchers

Mats Andersson, Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences, GU

Josephine Bøgeskov GrønningCentre for Ocean Life, DTU AQUA Denmark

Jenny Lindström, University of Gothenburg

Kristie Rigby, Department of Marine Sciences, GU

Fredrik RyderheimCentre for Ocean Life, DTU AQUA Denmark

Erik Selander, Department of Marine Sciences, GU


More about the project

Copepod induced defence in harmful algae

We recently identified a novel group of polar lipid signals from copepods that trigger the production of defensive metabolites such as paralytic shellfish toxins in harmful algae. This way the algae can launch their defense systems and become several hundred percent more toxic when their enemies, the copepods, are present. At the same time they can re-allocate their resources to other needs when copepods are scarce. The compounds, named copepodamides, induce algal defense at pico to nanomolar concentrations.

We have so far identified eight compounds, with different potency. Copepods have highly species specific profiles in copepodamides, which allows for species specific recognition in responding algae. Currently we are identifying additional copepodamides, and screen the copepodamides of common copepods. We also measure the abundance of copepodamides in the field, and relate them to the amount and species of copepods in over the year in a depth resolved sampling program.

In addition we are pursuing the effect of copepodamide signaling on the cellular level. We expose algal cultures to copepodamides and monitor the transcriptome and metabolome response.

Environmentally friendly control of sea lice in fish farms

Sea lice, ectoparasitic copepods on salmonide fish, are a tremendous problem in the fin fish industry. Current efforts to combat the lice involves pesticides and the use of cleaner fish wrasse. Lice become resistant to the pesticides, and in addition they have negative effects on non-target organisms at the treatment site.

Cleaner fish do not have these downsides, but the wild populations of cleaner fish wrasse cannot sustain the needs from the growing fin fish industry. Thus, novel approaches are urgently needed.

We try to identify the compounds that guide sea lice to prey and mates, with the purpose to develop a chemically baited trap to monitor sea lice in the wild, and to decimate sea lice in fish farms.