Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany

Bryopsis corticulans Ecology

Distribution and community interactions


Bryopsis corticulanswas first identified in Monterey, CA in 1898 by William Setchell. Since then it has been found along the western coast of North America from Vancouver Island, British Columbia down to Baja California, though it is most common around Monterey. It is a mid-intertidal to subtidal species that is often found attached to rocks.

B. corticulanscan be found from S. Canada to Baja, California. Other speicies of Bryopsis (e.g. hypnoides and pennatula) are also found along the western coast of N. America, ranging from S. Canada to Panama (hypnoides).

In the Monterey, Ca. area, Bryopsis corticulans grows between the 2.0 ft. and -1.5 ft. tide levels on vertical sides of rocks and is usually restricted to rocks exposed to strong surf. Bryopsis rarely grows in abundance and has been found to be epiphytic (occasionally). A possible factor limiting Bryopsis' distribution could be that since it is such a small and fine algae, it cannot compete as efficiently for space as other sturdier algae, such as Enteromorpha. At Stillwater Cove, Pebble Beach, CA, Bryopsis was only found around the outer, more exposed rocks. A step or two deeper in to the "algal soup," or a more sheltered intertidal pool, the more dense the vegetation and also no Bryopsis.

Community Interactions:

In the intertidal community, B. corticulans plays small but not really important roles. This is most likely because it does not have many predators, nor does it grow in abundance. Not many organisms like Bryopsis probably because of the secondary metabolite kahalalide F, a major depsipeptide, it produces.One of its known predators are the Sacoglossans, or sea slugs, e.g. Elysia refuscens. Studies have shown that E. refuscens accumulates kahalalide F from eating Bryopsis and that this chemical deterrent protects both Bryopsis and E. refuscens from fish predation [2]. Other studies are testing th bioactivity of kahalalide F in the clinical treatment of prostate cancer.

B. corticulans can be a housekeeper to tiny plankton, such as the diatoms (below). However, these diatoms are commonly found on most algae in the bay.
Not only can Bryopsis be a home for some organisms, but it can also be a house guest on other alga. B. corticulans has been occasionally known to be epiphtyic on the brown algae Egregia, the feather boa kelp. Epiphytes do not metabolically benefit from their hosts; they use their hosts mainly for a place to live. Although I personally did not find any examples of this, I was able to find an example of a tropical Bryopsis species epiphytically living on a tropical brown algae (below).

Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009