Background: Members of the calcified red algal genus, Galaxaura, are distributed predominantly in warm temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions worldwide. The capacity of these algae to form calcified thalli could play a critical role in the carbon cycle of these ecosystems. Previous studies have suggested that the reported species diversity of Galaxaura may be exaggerated due to a lack of knowledge regarding external morphological differences between gametophytic and tetrasporophytic plants (or among different life stages) of a single species. Results: To examine this issue, this study collected specimens of two morphologically distinct Galaxaura from Taiwan and the Philippines. These specimens were initially identified as two species (G. pacifica Tanaka and G. filamentosa Chou ex Taylor) based on their morphological features. Our molecular analyses, however, unexpectedly showed that these two specimens shared 100% identical rbcL sequences, indicating that they represented a single species comprising two distinct external morphologies. Furthermore, our extensive observations and molecular analyses on several specimens from different locations in southern Taiwan has revealed that these morphological differences could be due to seasonal variation. Conclusions: This study proposes that G. "filamentosa" from the Philippines could represent the remnants of the lower villous part of older gametophytic plants of G. pacifica after senescence of the upper smooth part of the thallus. As such we propose that these two previously distinct algal species from the northwest Pacific Ocean as a single species, G. pacifica. This study shows that the biodiversity of the calcified red algae Galaxaura could be overestimated without the assistance of molecular tools. Additionally, this study provides insights into the biodiversity and unique biology of the calcified red algae Galaxaura.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science