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Keywords:

  • Arctic;
  • biogeography;
  • endemic;
  • Laminaria;
  • origin;
  • Rhodophyta;
  • seaweeds;
  • Thermogeographic Model

The Arctic is geologically and biogeographically young, and the origin of its seaweed flora has been widely debated. The Arctic littoral biogeographic region dates from the latest Tertiary and Pleistocene. Following the opening of Bering Strait, about 3.5 mya, the “Great Trans-Arctic Biotic Interchange” populated the Arctic with a fauna strongly dominated by species of North Pacific origin. The Thermogeographic Model (TM) demonstrates why climate and geography continued to support this pattern in the Pleistocene. Thus, Arctic and Atlantic subarctic species of seaweeds are likely to be evolutionarily “based” in the North Pacific, subarctic species are likely to be widespread in the warmer Arctic, and species of Atlantic Boreal or warmer origin are unlikely in the Arctic and Subarctic. Although Arctic seaweeds have been thought to have a greater affinity with the North Atlantic, we have reanalyzed the Arctic endemic algal flora, using the Thermogeographic Model and evolutionary trees based on molecular data, to demonstrate otherwise. There are 35 congeneric species of the six, abundant Arctic Rhodophyta that we treat in this paper; 32 of these species (91%) occur in the North Pacific, two species (6%) occur in the Boreal or warmer Atlantic Ocean, and a single species is panoceanic, but restricted to the Subarctic. Laminaria solidungula J. Agardh, a kelp Arctic “endemic” species, has 18 sister species. While only eleven (61%) occur in the North Pacific, this rapidly dispersing and evolving genus is a terminal member of a diverse family and order (Laminariales) widely accepted to have evolved in the North Pacific. Thus, both the physical/time-based TM and the dominant biogeographic pattern of relatives of Arctic macrophytes suggest strong compliance with the evidence of zoology, geology, and paleoclimatology that the Arctic marine flora is largely of Pacific origin.