• cox1;
  • cox2-cox3 spacer;
  • DNA barcode;
  • Gracilaria vermiculophylla ;
  • marine algae;
  • rbcL;
  • species introductions;
  • Virginia

Gracilaria vermiculophylla (Ohmi) Papenfuss is an invasive alga that is native to Southeast Asia and has invaded many estuaries in North America and Europe. It is difficult to differentiate G. vermiculophylla from native forms using morphology and therefore molecular techniques are needed. In this study, we used three molecular markers (rbcL, cox2-cox3 spacer, cox1) to identify G. vermiculophylla at several locations in the western Atlantic. RbcL and cox2-cox3 spacer markers confirmed the presence of G. vermiculophylla on the east coast of the USA from Massachusetts to South Carolina. We used a 507 base pair region of cox1 mtDNA to (i) verify the widespread distribution of G. vermiculophylla in the Virginia (VA) coastal bays and (ii) determine the intraspecific diversity of these algae. Cox1 haplotype richness in the VA coastal bays was much higher than that previously found in other invaded locations, as well as some native locations. This difference is likely attributed to the more intensive sampling design used in this study, which was able to detect richness created by multiple, diverse introductions. On the basis of our results, we recommend that future studies take differences in sampling design into account when comparing haplotype richness and diversity between native and non-native studies in the literature.