Biodiversity pp 179-185 | Cite as

Chemical Signals from Sponges and their Allelopathic Effects on Other Marine Animals

  • Mary J. Garson


In their natural environments, sponges are subject to intense competition for space and for resources such as nutrients. Many of these organisms are soft-bodied, yet inhabit areas of intense predation pressure. Indeed, on coral reefs, sponges are the second most abundant biomass after corals. The ecological success of this group of colourful marine animals may be enhanced by use of a chemical defense strategy. A multitude of structurally-complex natural products representing all the major biosynthetic classes (terpene, alkaloid, polyketide etc) have been isolated from marine sponges1. Natural chemical signals (allelochemicals) from sponges are likely responsible for inducing or inhibiting the settlement of larvae of coral reef animals. While some of these chemicals are universally toxic to animal larvae, many others may differentially affect the physiology and development of specific types of larvae. One specialised group of marine animals, the nudibranchs, feed on marine sponges and may utilise toxic sponge chemicals as part of their own defensive strategy. In this paper, I discuss recent examples from our laboratory which illustrate the role played by sponge allelochemicals in underwater chemical “warfare”


Great Barrier Reef Marine Sponge Allelopathic Effect Reef Crest Mantle Tissue 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Garson, M.J., Clark, R.J., Webb, R.I., Kim L. Field, Charan, RD., McCaffrey, E., 1999,Mem. Qld. Mus. 44 205–13.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Clark, R.J., Field, K.L., Charan, R.C., Garson, M.J., Brereton, I.M., Willis, A.C., 1998,Tetrahedron, 54 8811–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Green, K.M., Russell, B.M., Clark, R.J., Jones, M.K., Skilleter, G.A., Garson, M.J.,Degnan, B.M., 2001, Mar. Biol, (in press).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fahey, S.A.,Garson, M.J., 2001, J. Chem. Ecol, (submitted).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cameron, G.M., Stapleton, B.L., Simonsen, S.M., Brecknell. D.J., Garson, M.J., 2000, Tetrahedron, 56 5247–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Unson, M.D, Rose, C.B., Faulkner, D.J., Brinen, L.S., Steiner, J.S., Clardy, J., 1993,J. Org. Chem, 58 6336–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Garson, M.J., Simpson, J.S., Flowers, A.E., Dumdei, E.J., 2000, Cyanide and thiocyanatederived functionality in marine organisms — structures, biosynthesis and ecology. In Studies in Natural Products Chemistry (Rahman, A.-ur., ed.), Vol.  21, Part B, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 329–73.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Clark, R.J., Stapleton, B.L. Garson, M.J., 2000,Tetrahedron, 56 3071–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Simpson, J.S., Flowers, A.E., Garson, M.J., 2000,Aust. J. Chem, 50 1123–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary J. Garson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations