Do marine creatures have problems with biofilms and biofouling?
Looking at nature for antifouling lessons reveals several examples of both physical and chemical ways that marine organisms reduce biofouling on their outer surfaces.
- Physical controls include: reducing drag, adhesion and wettability; having a smoother surface; grooming; active sloughing of the outer surface; and various other behaviours.
- Chemical controls include the secretion of various compounds.
Fouling is both prevented and removed by these physical and chemical controls. In the marine environment, plants, corals and fish employ them both. For example, sharks have low drag, riblets (a pattern created by its scales), flexion (movement) of scales and protective mucus; dogfish have smooth egg cases; fish can slough skin or scales; brittle stars (Ophiura texturata) and sea urchins (Diadema) have protective mucus; and pilot whales (Globicephala melas) and common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) have smooth surfaces and secrete protective enzymes.
Many immobile organisms such as sponges, tunicates and corals are free from biofouling because they produce compounds with antifouling properties that also protect them from being eaten or help them reduce competition for space. Algae also control the attachment of fouling organisms by releasing antifouling compounds. These compounds are thought to interfere with the processes involved in surface colonisation.
Biofouling: lessons from nature by Gregory D. Bixler and Bharat Bhushan. Published:28 May 2012 https://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2011.0502
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