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Keywords:

  • 18S rDNA;
  • discosporangiaceae;
  • discosporangiales;
  • discosporangium;
  • molecular phylogeny;
  • rbcL

A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the little-studied filamentous brown alga Discosporangium mesarthrocarpum (Meneghini) Hauck using rbcL and partial 18S rDNA sequences revealed that the species forms a monophyletic clade with Choristocarpus tenellus (Kütz.) Zanardini that is sister to all other brown algae. Although D. mesarthrocarpum has unique disk-shaped plurilocular reproductive organs, D. mesarthrocarpum and C. tenellus share the following basic morphological features, which are considered to be plesiomorphic characters in the brown algae: (1) apical (and diffuse) growth; (2) uniseriate, subdichotomously branched filaments; (3) multiple chloroplasts per cell without pyrenoids; and (4) lack of heterotrichy and of phaeophycean hairs. The rbcL DNA sequence of an Australian D. mesarthrocarpum specimen showed considerable deviation from Mediterranean and Macaronesian specimens. Therefore, the presence of a second species in the genus is suggested; however, the taxonomic treatment of this putative species is not pursued in the present report. Regarding the higher-ranking systematic position of D. mesarthrocarpum, reinstatement of Discosporangiaceae and Discosporangiales is proposed, and the inclusion of Choristocarpaceae in the order is also suggested. Under short-day and long-day culture conditions at 15°C–25°C, Mediterranean D. mesarthrocarpum exhibited a direct type of life history, with a succession of uniseriate filamentous thalli bearing characteristic disk-shaped plurilocular zoidangia, but thalli did not survive at 10°C and below.