Diatoms are unicellular algae playing a key role as photosynthetic organisms in the world's ocean food webs. The chemical ecology of planktonic diatoms is well documented, but few studies have reported on the effects of benthic diatoms on their consumers, also due to difficulties in the collection, quantification and massive culturing of benthic species. Here for the first time we investigate the effects of feeding on two abundantly occurring benthic diatoms, Nanofrustulum shiloi and Cylindrotheca closterium, isolated from the leaves of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica, on the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. Adult P. lividus were fed for one month on diets of either one of the two diatoms and on the green alga Ulva rigida, used as a feeding control. By combining morphological, metabolomic and de novo transcriptomic approaches, we demonstrate toxigenic effect on embryos generated by females fed with these benthic diatoms. Furthermore, chemical analysis reveal the presence of polyunsaturated aldehydes only for N. shiloi, and a high production of other oxylipins (cytotoxic compounds on their grazers and on cancer cell lines) for both diatoms, including some additional peaks not correlated to the canonic oxylipins commonly observed in planktonic diatoms. These findings open new perspectives in the study of diatom secondary metabolites influencing their grazers.
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