Chemical defense against fouling in the solitary ascidian phallusia nigra

Boaz Mayzel*, Markus Haber, Micha Ilan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The solitary ascidian Phallusia nigra is rarely fouled by epibionts. Here, we tested the antifouling activity of its crude extracts in laboratory and field assays. P. nigra extracts inhibited the growth of all eight tested environmental bacteria and two of four laboratory bacteria. Extracts of the sympatric, but fouled solitary ascidian Herdmania momus inhibited only one test bacterium. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed that the tunic surface of P. nigra is largely bacteria-free. Both ascidian extracts significantly inhibited the larval metamorphosis of the bryozoan Bugula neritina at the tested concentration range of 0.05–2 mg ml-1. Both crude extracts were toxic to larvae of the brine shrimp Artemia salina at natural volumetric whole-tissue concentrations, but only P. nigra showed activity at 2 mg ml-1 and below (LC50 = 1.11 mg ml-1). P. nigra crude extracts also significantly reduced the settlement of barnacles, polychaetes, and algae in Mediterranean field assays and barnacle settlement in Red Sea trials. Comparisons between control experiments and pH values monitored in all experiments indicate that the observed effects were not due to acidity of the organic extracts. Our results show that P. nigra secondary metabolites have antifouling activities, which may act in synergy with previously proposed physiological antifouling mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-241
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014


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