• Key index words;
  • anatomy;
  • Australia;
  • carrageenan;
  • Dicranemataceae;
  • Gigartinales;
  • Rhodophyta;
  • Sarcodiaceae;
  • taxonomy


The Dicranemataceae consists of five species in four genera of macroscopic red algae endemic to the southern half of Australia plus a single species from southern Japan. Investigations of the nonfibrillar wall components of five of the six species show that all are composed mainly of hybrid (or mixed) beta (β)/kappa(κ)-type carrageenans. Detailed studies of Tylotus obtusatus (Sonder) J. Agardh show that it produces the largest dry-weight percentage of β-carrageenan yet recorded. Monosaccharide composition, total sulfate content, sulfation pattern revealed by infrared and 13C-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and a positive specific optical rotation ([α]D+ 54°) are indicative of a low-sulfate-containing carrageenan with gelling properties similar to those of agar and furcellaran. β-carrageenan is recorded in only five other red algal species belonging to relatively unrelated families, and we conclude that its uniform occurrence in the highly specialized family Dicranemataceae has phylogenetic significance. Chemical and anatomical examination of the genus Sarcodia, which produce lambda-type carrageenan in both its gametophytic and tetrasporophytic phases, suggests that, despite the recent proposal to incorporate the Dicranemataceae into the Sarcodiaceae, the two families should continue to be separated.