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Keywords:

  • algal diversity;
  • Enteromorpha;
  • green tide;
  • ITS1;
  • molecular species concept;
  • rbcL;
  • Ulva

Sequences of the nuclear internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) region and the chloroplast rbcL gene were obtained from 86 specimens of Ulva (including “Enteromorpha”) from five of the main Hawaiian Islands. These 86 specimens were divided into 11 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) based on analyses of primary sequence data and comparisons of ITS1 secondary structure. Of the 11 OTUs, six have not previously been reported from anywhere in the world. Only three represented exact sequence matches to named species (Ulva lactuca L., syn. U. fasciata Delile; U. ohnoi Hiraoka et Shimada); two others represented exact sequence matches to unnamed species from Japan and New Zealand. Of the 12 species names currently in use for Hawaiian Ulva, only one, U. lactuca (as U. fasciata), was substantiated. General morphology of the specimens did not always correspond with molecular OTUs; for example, reticulate thallus morphology, previously considered diagnostic for the species U. reticulata Forssk., was expressed in thalli assigned to U. ohnoi and to one of the novel OTUs. This finding confirms a number of recent studies and provides further support for a molecular species concept for Ulva. These results suggest that Ulva populations in tropical and subtropical regions consist of species that are largely unique to these areas, for which the application of names based on types from temperate and boreal European and North American waters is inappropriate. Ulva ohnoi, a “green tide” species, is reported from Hawaii for the first time.