SYSTEMATIC STATUS AND PHYLOGENETIC RELATIONSHIPS OF THE FRESHWATER GENUS BALBIANIA (RHODOPHYTA)

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Abstract

The freshwater rhodophyte Balbiania investiens (Lenormand) Sirodot was collected as an epiphyte of Batrachospermum in small streams in England, Ireland, and Germany. Unialgal cultures and field collections of Balbiania were analyzed in terms of their morphology, ultrastructure, and the DNA sequences of the genes coding for the large subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (rbcL) and 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNA), as well as the first internal transcribed spacer region (ITS1) of the rRNA genes. One of the major distinguishing features of this genus is the production of spermatangia on the tips of specialized, elongate cells. The spermatangia are cut off in a cluster together with similar nonspermatangial cells that are packed with starch granules. The only other rhodophyte genus with this feature is Rhododraparnaldia; the two genera are differentiated from each other by the pattern of branching, substratum of attachment, and type of diploid phase. In the parsimony and distance trees inferred from the two gene sequences as well as in a combined parsimony tree, Balbiania and Rhododraparnaldia grouped together on a well-supported branch separate from other taxa of the Batrachospermales, Acrochaetiales, Nemaliales, and Palmariales. However, the two genera are positioned within a clade containing the last three orders. Based on these findings, it is clear that the genus Balbiania is a valid taxon and that it is phylogenetically associated with Rhododraparnaldia. A new order is proposed, the Balbianiales. The two specimens of Balbiania analyzed from England and Germany have identical sequences for all regions of DNA analyzed.

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