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Induction of domoic acid production in diatoms-Types of grazers and diatoms are important

Journal article
Authors N. Lundholm
B. Krock
U. John
J. Skov
J. F. Cheng
M. Pancic
S. Wohlrab
Kristie Rigby
T. G. Nielsen
Erik Selander
S. Hardardottir
Published in Harmful Algae
Volume 79
Pages 64-73
ISSN 1568-9883
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of marine sciences
Pages 64-73
Language en
Keywords Co-evolution, Cost, Diatom, Copepod, Defensive response, Grazing, Induction, Toxin production, phaeocystis-globosa prymnesiophyceae, pseudo-nitzschia, toxin, production, calanoid copepods, colony formation, marine, zooplankton, bacillariophyceae, phytoplankton, growth
Subject categories Marine ecology


Grazers can induce toxin (domoic acid, DA) production in diatoms. The toxic response has been observed in two species of Pseudo-nitzschia and was induced by Calanus copepods. In this study, interactions between diatoms and copepods were further explored using different species of diatoms and copepods. All herbivorous copepods induced toxin production, whereas exposure to carnivorous copepods did not. In line with this, increasing the number of herbivorous copepods resulted in even higher toxin production. The induced response is thus only elicited by copepods that pose a real threat to the responding cells, which supports that the induced toxin production in diatoms evolved as an inducible defense. The cellular toxin content in Pseudo-nitzschia was positively correlated to the concentration of a group of specific polar lipids called copepodamides that are excreted by the copepods. This suggests that copepodamides are the chemical cues responsible for triggering the toxin production. Carnivorous copepods were found to produce less or no copepodamides. Among the diatoms exposed to grazing herbivorous copepods, only two of six species of Pseudo-nitzschia and none of the Nitzschia or Fragilariopsis strains responded by producing DA, indicating that not all Pseudo-nitzschia species/strains are able to produce DA, and that different diatom species might have different strategies for coping with grazing pressure. Growth rate was negatively correlated to cellular domoic acid content indicating an allocation cost associated with toxin production. Long-term grazing experiments showed higher mortality rates of grazers fed toxic diatoms, supporting the hypothesis that DA production is an induced defense mechanism.

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