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Keywords:

  • algae;
  • Chlorophyta;
  • Enteromorpha;
  • ITS sequences;
  • molecular systematics;
  • phylogeny;
  • taxonomy;
  • Ulvaceae

Enteromorpha muscoides (Clemente y Rubio) Cremades and E. clathrata Roth (Greville) are morphologically variable species that can easily be distinguished from other Enteromorpha species but not from each other. The key morphological character separating the two species is the presence or absence of spine-like branches: E. muscoides has small spine-like branches throughout the thallus, whereas E. clathrata lacks spines. The spiny branches in E. muscoides are not as obvious in summer as in winter, so summer samples may be difficult to distinguish from those of E. clathrata. In this study, molecular data were used to investigate whether these two species, as defined by morphological characters, might be conspecific. The sequences of the internal transcribed spacers ITS1 and ITS2 and the 5.8S gene differed by 0%–0.6% between all samples of both E. muscoides and E. clathrata. Phylogenetic analysis of these sequences in an alignment with 13 other representatives of both Enteromorpha and Ulva showed that this highly supported monophyletic E. muscoides/E. clathrata clade is separated by long branch lengths from other Enteromorpha and Ulva clades. Based on these results, we suggest that Enteromorpha muscoides (Clemente y Rubio) Cremades and Enteromorpha clathrata Roth (Greville) are conspecific, with the older name E. muscoides taking priority.