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Marine biodiversity and chemodiversity - the treasure troves of the future

Stéphane La Barre
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From cyanobacteria and bacteria to the largest metazoans, chemistry is the preferred mode of aquatic communication, thanks to the extraordinary solvation properties of water. Bacteria create biofilms inside which they communicate using their own chemical repertoire before colonizing new media, substrates or organisms. Microalgae form blooms which are maintained by releasing semiochemicals for cell-cell recognition. Fish rely on their extraordinary sense of smell to hunt or to migrate to some specific breeding spot. The extraordinary biodiversity of coral reefs is maintained by a highly complex chemical network of toxins and pheromones, some soluble, some dispersed with a mucus carrier or surface-coated. But not only: the amazing colors used for warning or for camouflage, the bioluminescence used in the dark correspond to very sophisticated assemblages of pigments, small metabolites or proteins, each organism having its own strategy to be visually recognized or to blend into the background. Humans have only recently been aware of the extraordinary potential marine molecules for the design of new drugs, cosmetics and nutraceutics. Well over 20000 natural molecules have been studied so far, and several have responded to the need for novel anticancer, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory or anti-pain agents etc. To-date, very little is said or written on the fate of natural chemodiversity within the context of local or general biodiversity collapse, both terrestrial and marine. After a brief historical account of the intricate connections between chemodiversity and biodiversity since life appeared on our planet, this chapter attempts to demonstrate that natural molecular diversity, both mineral and organic, is a treasure to preserve for future generations, using a series of marine examples.
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hal-00982766 , version 1 (24-04-2014)


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Stéphane La Barre. Marine biodiversity and chemodiversity - the treasure troves of the future. Oscar Grillo. Biodiversity - The Dynamic Balance of the Planet, InTech, pp.1-26, 2014, ISBN 978-953-51-1315-7. ⟨hal-00982766⟩
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