Diversity of phlorotannin profiles among sargassasacean species affecting variation and abundance of epiphytes

In general, epiphytes have detrimental effects on the growth of their basiphytes due to competition for light and nutrients. Therefore, basiphyte species must expend energy suppressing epiphytes. Some studies suggest that phlorotannins, i.e. brown algal polyphenols, prevent colonization by epiphytes, whereas others question their allelopathic function because there is not necessarily a negative correlation between epiphyte abundance and the phlorotannin content of the basiphyte algae. Various phlorotannin components are found in brown algal species, thus we hypothesized that the antifouling activities of polyphenolic compounds may differ and that the analysis of phlorotannin profiles could be useful for estimating their ecological functions. We surveyed the epiphyte richness in the apical portions of 373 thalli from 15 sargassacean species, demonstrating that the variation and abundance of epiphyte species differed remarkably among the basiphyte species. However, there was a weak negative correlation between the density and total phlorotannin content of the basiphyte algae in only one of the 18 epiphyte species. The interspecific differences in the phlorotannin profile were characterized by quantitative 1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (qNMR), and four major groups were categorized based on cluster and principal component analyses of polyphenolic signals in the qNMR spectra. The epiphyte Neosiphonia harveyi was more abundant on Sargassum hemiphyllum, S. patens and S. piluliferum than on other basiphyte species, and these three species were similar according to the cluster analysis. These results suggest that some phlorotannin components may be more effective for antifouling; thus interspecific differences in the phlorotannin profile could affect the variation and abundance of epiphytes.