Marine macroalgae, especially the Rhodophyta, can be notoriously difficult to identify owing to their relatively simple morphology and anatomy, convergence, rampant phenotypic plasticity, and alternation of heteromorphic generations. It is thus not surprising that algal systematists have come to rely heavily on genetic tools for molecular assisted alpha taxonomy. Unfortunately the number of suitable marker systems in the three available genomes is enormous and, although most workers have settled on one of three or four models, the lack of an accepted standard hinders the comparison of results between laboratories. The advantages of a standard system are obvious for practical purposes of species discovery and identification; as well, compliance with a universal marker, such as cox1 being developed under the label ‘DNA barcode’, would allow algal systematists to benefit from the rapidly emerging technologies. Novel primers were developed for red algae to PCR amplify and sequence the 5′ cox1 ‘barcode’ region and were used to assess three known species-complex questions: (i) Mazzaella species in the Northeast Pacific; (ii) species of the genera Dilsea and Neodilsea in the Northeast Pacific; and (iii) Asteromenia peltata from three oceans. These models were selected because they have all caused confusion with regards to species number, distribution, and identification in the field, and because they have all been studied with molecular tools. In all cases the DNA barcode resolved accurately and unequivocally species identities and, with the enhanced sampling here, turned up a variety of novel observations in need of further taxonomic investigation.
One contribution of 18 to a Theme Issue ‘DNA barcoding of life’.
- © 2005 The Royal Society