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  • 1Received 20 June 2006. Accepted 21 December 2006.


The coccolithophore Algirosphaera robusta (Lohmann) R. E. Norris was isolated into laboratory culture for the first time. This species is of particular interest as the first deep photic coccolithophore to be cultured, the only member of the Rhabdosphaeraceae to have been successfully isolated, and the first coccolithophore with a coccolith structure including a complex disjunct central area to have been studied in detail. Observations on the culture strain supported the previous inference that the commonly recognized species A. robusta, A. oryza Schlauder, and A. quadricornu (J. Schiller) R. E. Norris are conspecific. However, A. meteora (Müller) R. E. Norris and A. cucullata (Lecal-Schlauder) J. R. Young, Probert et Kleijne were recognized as discrete species. Coccolith rim formation in A. robusta follows the pattern of biomineralization documented in other heterococcoliths and was suggested to be universal. However, the prominent central hood had a unique ultrastructure and appeared to be formed by a distinctively different biomineralization mode. We suggest that this can provide a key to reinterpreting homology in coccolith structure and that this species is a promising target for comparative biochemical and genomic studies of biomineralization. In terms of cell ultrastructure, A. robusta exhibited marked similarities to Syracosphaera pulchra Lohmann, and a close evolutionary relationship between the families Rhabdosphaeraceae and Syracosphaeraceae is suggested.