Ecological Biochemistry


Ecological biochemistry is the study of the role of biochemistry and chemistry in the ecological relationships of different organisms in their abiotic environment. In the middle of the nineteenth century, it was found that insect herbivores could be repelled by chemicals emitted by, or eaten in, a target plant. Development of toxicology, biochemistry, ecology as disciplines and of analytical chemistry techniques allowed the molecular basis to be determined in 1968 when cardiac glycosides (cardenolides) of milkweed were shown to cause young blue jays to vomit up partially eaten Monarch butterflies and to avoid butterflies. Numerous chemical signalling systems were soon found for many host–predator and/or host–benefactor interactions of many species. The advent of genomic techniques in the twenty‐first century has allowed the genetic basis of these interactions to be examined in recent research, a trend that will also apply for future research.

Key Concepts:

  • Ecological biochemistry focuses on the identification and quantification of molecules that interact with a different organism and the mechanism of the interaction.

  • Ecological biochemistry also features the fate and transport aspects of molecules that interact with a different organism.

  • Ecological biochemistry also features how the interacting molecule is produced and that mechanism.

Keywords: biota; interactions; ecology; biochemistry; symbiosis

Figure 1.

The eLS conceptual circle for ecological biochemistry.



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Further Reading

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Que Hee, Shane(Jun 2012) Ecological Biochemistry. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003275.pub2]