Copepods, the most common animal species in the world, release unique substances into the sea. New research from the University of Gothenburg shows that the levels of these substances are high enough to affect the marine food web. These studies also show that phytoplankton in the sea detect the specific scent of copepods and do their best to avoid being eaten.
The substances released into seawater by copepods as a defence are called copepodamides. When phytoplankton in the water sense copepodamides, they activate their defence mechanisms to avoid being eaten. Some phytoplankton then produce light – bioluminescence – while other plankton use chemical warfare to produce toxins or shrink in size.
“Since the phytoplankton in the sea are the basis for all marine life, the effects are significant,” says Erik Selander from the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Gothenburg, who heads up the research team.