Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knoill-Str. 8, D-07745 Jena, Germany. In recent years a negative influence of diatom-derived alpha,beta,gamma,delta-unsaturated aldehydes (PUA) on the reproductive success of copepods and invertebrates has been suggested. Since adverse chemical properties of diatoms would question the traditional view of the marine food web, this defense mechanism has been investigated in detail, but the PUA-release by test organisms has only been determined in a few cases. The observed effects were nevertheless frequently discussed from a general point of view often leading to contradictory conclusions. We have examined the PUA-production of 51 diatom species (71 isolates) in order to provide a basis for the interpretation of laboratory and field results on the influence of diatom food on the reproductive success of their consumers. PUA-production is species and strain dependent. Thirty-six percent of the investigated species (38% of the cultivated isolates) release alpha,beta,gamma,delta-unsaturated aldehydes upon cell disruption in concentrations from 0.01 to 9.8 fmol per cell. Thalassiosira rotula and Thalassiosira pacifica, major spring-bloom forming diatoms isolated from Roscoff (Bretagne, English Channel, France) and Puget Sound (Washington, USA) were among the PUA-producing strains.