• Caulerpa;
  • chloroplast DNA;
  • phylogeny;
  • systematics;
  • tufA

The genus Caulerpa consists of about 75 species of tropical to subtropical siphonous green algae. To better understand the evolutionary history of the genus, a molecular phylogeny was inferred from chloroplast tufA sequences of 23 taxa. A sequence of Caulerpella ambigua was included as a potential outgroup. Results reveal that the latter taxon is, indeed, sister to all ingroup sequences. Caulerpa itself consists of a series of relatively ancient and species-poor lineages and a relatively modern and rapidly diversifying clade, containing most of the diversity. The molecular phylogeny conflicts with the intrageneric sectional classification based on morphological characters and an evolutionary scheme based on chloroplast ultrastructure. High bootstrap values support monophyly of C. mexicana, C. sertularioides, C. taxifolia, C. webbiana, and C. prolifera, whereas most other Caulerpa species show para- or polyphyly.