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Keywords:

  • Antarctica;
  • Chlorophyceae;
  • Desmotetra;
  • new species;
  • snow algae

Two cryophilic Desmotetra species, D. aureospora, sp. nov., and D. antarctica (Fritsch) Ling appear to be unique to the southern hemisphere snow ecosystem, or at least to the Windmill Island region, Antarctica. They have not been encountered in previous extensive studies of the Arctic and northern alpine regions. Also unusual are the higher pH (6.8 and 7.8) and conductivities of 279 μS·cm−1 and 426 μS·cm−1 for habitat conditions of D. antarctica that can be attributed to the influence of penguin guano. Both species are characterized by cells enveloped in individual mucilage layers, 1–3 contractile vacuoles, and a cup-shaped chloroplast containing a diffuse pyrenoid. The cells divided in three planes to form cubical loosely aggregated green cell packages embedded in mucilage. Vegetative cells of the two species cannot be distinguished with certainty; however, their zygospores are very different. Desmotetra aureospora has spherical, smooth-walled, golden zygospores, whereas D. antarctica has pale, yellow green, aereolate zygospores. Mucilage stalk morphology of cells in stationary-phase cultures can also be used to separate the two species. Zygospores of D. antarctica have previously been identified as the snow alga Trochiscia antarctica Fritsch. Both species are currently maintained in culture at the Australian Antarctic Division. The cultures did not grow at temperatures above 15° C. The two species are compared with the soil alga D. stigmatica (Deason) Deason et Floyd, the only other species in the genus, and also with Chlorosarcina stigmatica Deason strain T105. Results show that the three Desmotetra species form a natural group and that the absence or presence of a wall on the zoospore is of dubious value in classifications of green algal taxa above the species level.