• Arnoldiella;
  • Basicladia;
  • Cladophorella;
  • freshwater;
  • molecular phylogenetics;
  • Pithophoraceae;
  • Pseudocladophoraceae;
  • ribosomal DNA;
  • systematics;
  • Wittrockiella

The Aegagropila clade represents a unique group of cladophoralean green algae occurring mainly in brackish and freshwater environments. The clade is sister to the species-rich and primarily marine Cladophora and Siphonocladus lineages. Phylogenetic analyses of partial LSU and SSU nrDNA sequences reveal four main lineages within the Aegagropila clade, and allow a taxonomic reassessment. One lineage consists of two marine ‘Cladophora’ species, for which the new genus Pseudocladophora and the new family Pseudocladophoraceae are proposed. For the other lineages, the family name Pithophoraceae is reinstated. Within the Pithophoraceae, the earliest diverging lineage includes Wittrockiella and Cladophorella calcicola, occurring mainly in brackish and subaerial habitats. The two other lineages are restricted to freshwater. One of them shows a strong tendency for epizoism, and consists of Basicladia species and Arnoldiella conchophila. The other lineage includes Aegagropila, Pithophora and a small number of tropical ‘Cladophora’ species. The latter are transferred to the new genus Aegagropilopsis. Previously, polypyramidal pyrenoids had been suggested to be apomorphous for this clade, but we report the finding of both polypyramidal and bilenticular pyrenoids in members of the Pithophoraceae, and thus show that this character has no diagnostic value.