Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_218-1

Alkaloids are cyclic compounds containing nitrogen in a negative oxidation state which is of limited distribution in a living organism. The term “alkaloid” marks its origin from the word “alkaline” which in Arabic means “ashes of plants.” They are generally known to be plant metabolites but are also produced by bacteria, fungi, and animals (Clark and Hufford 1992). Presently, more than 5,500 alkaloids are known and are highly placed with respect to their diversity, efficiency, and therapeutic significance. Research shows that almost 20% of the plants produce alkaloids and their major source in the flowering plants is the angiosperm (Pelletier 1983). Being toxic in nature, their main role in plants is to defend them against the micro-organisms, insects, and herbivores.

Chemically, they are a class of natural compounds, majority of which contain nitrogen and a few of them being non-nitrogen heterocyclic organic amines. Mostly, basic in nature but these compounds can also range from being...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology (MMV), Institute of ScienceBanaras Hindu UniversityVaranasiIndia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mystera M. Samuelson
    • 1
  1. 1.The Institute for Marine Mammal StudiesGulfportUSA