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Keywords:

  • 16S;
  • alga;
  • algae-associated bacteria;
  • Caulerpa taxifolia;
  • invasive species;
  • ITS

Abstract

The accidental introduction of Caulerpa taxifolia into the Mediterranean is no longer under dispute. What has eluded researchers until now, is definitive evidence for the original, biogeographical source population. Here we present two independent lines of evidence that support an Australian origin for the Mediterranean populations of C. taxifolia. First, we reanalysed algal rDNA-internal transcribed spacer (rDNA-ITS) sequences, combining previously published sequences from different studies with 22 new sequences. The ITS sequence comparison showed that the Australian sample is the sister group of the Mediterranean–aquarium clade. Second, cloned bacterial 16S rDNA gene sequences were analysed from the associated microflora of C. taxifolia collected from Australia, Tahiti, the Philippines and the Mediterranean. Five bacterial lineages were identified, of which three were dominant. Alpha Proteobacteria were the most abundant and were found in all samples. In contrast, members of the beta Proteobacterial line and Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides line (CFB) were mainly associated with Mediterranean and Australian samples. Frequency distributions of the five bacterial lineages were significantly different among biogeographical locations. Phylogenetic analyses of the 54 bacterial sequences derived from the four C. taxifolia individuals resulted in a well-resolved tree with high bootstrap support. The topologies of the beta Proteobacteria and CFB mirror the geographical sources of their algal hosts. Bacterial–algal associations provide an identification tool that may have wide application for the detection of marine invasions.