Structural and chemical defenses of echinoderms from the northern Gulf of Mexico

Academic Article


  • The feeding deterrent effects of echinoderm body-wall tissues and ethanolic extracts containing mid-polarity compounds were evaluated utilizing generalist fish and crabs as model predators. The body-wall tissues of the echinoderms examined ranged 10-fold from 0.9-9.4 mm in thickness, and four and a half-fold in level of mineralization (17.8-82.7% ash content). Holothuroids had the thickest body-wall tissues and contained the lowest levels of mineralization in their body-walls. Crinoids and ophiuroids had high levels of mineralization in their arms. Asteroid body-wall tissues varied the most in thickness and ash content (0.9-3.9 mm in thickness and 29.2 55.5% in ash content). Body-wall tissues of 19 species of echinoderms were tested for their feeding deterrent properties against the marine fishes Lagodon rhomboides (Linnaeus) and Cyprinodon variegatus (Lacepede), as well as the decapod crustacean Libinia emarginata (Leach). Equivalent sized pieces of fresh body-wall tissue of 16 species of echinoderms caused observable feeding deterrence responses in at least two of the three model predators. There was no significant correlation between body-wall thickness or percent ash and its palatability to any of the three model predators. Agar pellets containing ethanolic body-wall extracts of 12 of 18 echinoderm species caused observable feeding deterrence responses in the fish L. rhomboides. In similar experiments with the arrow crab Stenorhyncus seticornis (Herbst), using carrageenan fish-meal blocks as food models, no differences in consumption of control fish-meal and experimental body-wall extract blocks were detected. Our findings indicate that invertebrate and vertebrate predators may respond quite differently to echinoderm body wall extracts.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bryan PJ; McClintock JB; Hopkins TS
  • Start Page

  • 173
  • End Page

  • 186
  • Volume

  • 210
  • Issue

  • 2