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Taxonomic determination of the cryptogenic red alga, Chondria tumulosa sp. nov., (Rhodomelaceae, Rhodophyta) from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Hawai‘i, USA: A new species displaying invasive characteristics


Abstract and Figures

Survey cruises by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2016 and 2019 yielded specimens of an undetermined red alga that rapidly attained alarming levels of benthic coverage at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Hawaiʻi. By 2019 the seaweed had covered large expanses on the northeast side of the atoll with mat-like, extensive growth of entangled thalli. Specimens were analyzed using light microscopy and molecular analysis, and were compared to morphological descriptions in the literature for closely related taxa. Light microscopy demonstrated that the specimens likely belonged to the rhodomelacean genus Chondria, yet comparisons to taxonomic literature revealed no morphological match. DNA sequence analyses of the mitochondrial COI barcode marker, the plastidial rbcL gene, and the nuclear SSU gene confirmed its genus-level placement and demonstrated that this alga was unique compared to all other available sequences. Based on these data, this cryptogenic seaweed is here proposed as a new species: Chondria tumulosa A.R.Sherwood & J.M.Huisman sp. nov. Chondria tumulosa is distinct from all other species of Chondria based on its large, robust thalli, a mat-forming tendency, large axial diameter in mature branches (which decreases in diameter with subsequent orders of branching), terete axes, and bluntly rounded apices. Although C. tumulosa does not meet the criteria for the definition of an invasive species given that it has not been confirmed as introduced to Pearl and Hermes Atoll, this seaweed is not closely related to any known Hawaiian native species and is of particular concern given its sudden appearance and rapid increase in abundance in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; an uninhabited, remote, and pristine island chain to the northwest of the Main Hawaiian Islands.
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Taxonomic determination of the cryptogenic
red alga, Chondria tumulosa sp.
nov., (Rhodomelaceae, Rhodophyta)
from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National
Monument, Hawai‘i, USA: A new species
displaying invasive characteristics
Alison R. SherwoodID
*, John M. Huisman
, Monica O. Paiano
, Taylor M. Williams
Randall K. KosakiID
, Celia M. Smith
, Louise Giuseffi
, Heather L. Spalding
1School of Life Sciences, University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, HI, United States of America, 2Department of
Biodiversity, Western Australian Herbarium, Conservation and Attractions, Kensington, WA, Australia,
3Department of Biology, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, United States of America, 4NOAA,
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Honolulu, HI, United States of America, 5NOAA, Pacific
Islands Fisheries Science Center, Honolulu, HI, United States of America
Survey cruises by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2016
and 2019 yielded specimens of an undetermined red alga that rapidly attained alarming lev-
els of benthic coverage at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National
Monument, Hawai‘i. By 2019 the seaweed had covered large expanses on the northeast side
of the atoll with mat-like, extensive growth of entangled thalli. Specimens were analyzed
using light microscopy and molecular analysis, and were compared to morphological descrip-
tions in the literature for closely related taxa. Light microscopy demonstrated that the speci-
mens likely belonged to the rhodomelacean genus Chondria, yet comparisons to taxonomic
literature revealed no morphological match. DNA sequence analyses of the mitochondrial
COI barcode marker, the plastidial rbcL gene, and the nuclear SSU gene confirmed its
genus-level placement and demonstrated that this alga was unique compared to all other
available sequences. Based on these data, this cryptogenic seaweed is here proposed as a
new species: Chondria tumulosa A.R.Sherwood & J.M.Huisman sp. nov. Chondria tumulosa
is distinct from all other species of Chondria based on its large, robust thalli, a mat-forming
tendency, large axial diameter in mature branches (which decreases in diameter with subse-
quent orders of branching), terete axes, and bluntly rounded apices. Although C.tumulosa
does not meet the criteria for the definition of an invasive species given that it has not been
confirmed as introduced to Pearl and Hermes Atoll, this seaweed is not closely related to any
known Hawaiian native species and is of particular concern given its sudden appearance and
rapid increase in abundance in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; an
uninhabited, remote, and pristine island chain to the northwest of the Main Hawaiian Islands.
PLOS ONE | July 7, 2020 1 / 16
Citation: Sherwood AR, Huisman JM, Paiano MO,
Williams TM, Kosaki RK, Smith CM, et al. (2020)
Taxonomic determination of the cryptogenic red
alga, Chondria tumulosa sp.
nov., (Rhodomelaceae, Rhodophyta)
from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National
Monument, Hawai‘i, USA: A new species displaying
invasive characteristics. PLoS ONE 15(7):
Editor: Marcos Rubal Garcı
Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and
Environmental Research of the University of Porto,
Received: March 3, 2020
Accepted: May 22, 2020
Published: July 7, 2020
Copyright: This is an open access article, free of all
copyright, and may be freely reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or
otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose.
The work is made available under the Creative
Commons CC0 public domain dedication.
Data Availability Statement: All newly generated
DNA sequence data have been submitted to
GenBank and are available under the following
accession numbers: (COI: MT039621 - MT039626;
rbcL: MT039601 - MT039620; SSU: MT039627 -
Invasive seaweeds are well known in the Main Hawaiian Islands, with the most problematic of
these being the red algae Acanthophora spicifera (M.Vahl) Børgesen, Gracilaria salicornia (C.
Agardh) E.Y.Dawson, Hypnea musciformis (Wulfen) J.V.Lamouroux, members of the Kappa-
phycus/Eucheuma complex, and the green alga Avrainvillea lacerata J.Agardh (previously
recorded as A.amadelpha (Montagne) A.Gepp & E.S.Gepp) [1,2]. The origins of these sea-
weeds in the Hawaiian Islands vary, with A.spicifera reportedly arriving on a fouled hull of a
naval fuel barge that arrived in Pearl Harbor Naval Station in 1950 [3] and the remainder of
the red algae escaping from aquaculture trials of imported material [1]. The origins of the
Hawaiian populations of the green alga, A.lacerata, are unknown; some possibilities include
that the alga is an indigenous member to the flora or an early introduction before collections
of even shallow water algae were first made in about 1826 [4]. A.lacerata has now spread into
shallow waters in recent decades from deeper habitats [2,5,6,7]. More recently, Avrainvillea
erecta (Berkeley) A.Gepp & E.S.Gepp has been recorded on O‘ahu and Maui as an introduced
species, and continues to rapidly increase in abundance and distribution [6]. In contrast to the
Main Hawaiian Islands, reports of nuisance algae in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National
Monument (PMNM) (the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) are far fewer, and no invasive
behavior by non-indigenous seaweeds has been observed. In 2008, a non-persistent bloom of
the green alga Boodlea composita (Harvey) Brand was reported at Kure and Midway Atolls [8],
and extensive collections of an unidentified species of the red alga Hypnea have been examined
from specimens derived from lobster traps from Maro Reef and Mokumanamana (Necker
Island) [9]; however, these have not been characterized or confirmed as invasive species.
A widespread mat-forming alga was first observed in 2016 by National Oceanic and Atmo-
spheric Administration (NOAA) researchers who were conducting routine monitoring surveys
of coral reefs at Pearl and Hermes Atoll (PHA), PMNM. It was identified by eye as a red alga, and
was noted to form mat-like growths that extended for several square meters, with detached pieces
exhibiting “tumbleweed”-like morphologies. Surveys conducted in July/August and September
2019 confirmed the presence and spread of the alga, and documented it from 1–19 m depths
around the northern, western, and eastern sides of PHA. Here we employ morphological and
molecular characterization of samples, in combination with taxonomic comparisons in the litera-
ture, to provide a taxonomic identification for this rapidly spreading, cryptogenic nuisance alga.
Materials and methods
Specimens of Chondria were collected in September 2016, July/August 2019, and September
2019 from PHA, PMNM, Hawai‘i, USA, as part of surveys conducted by NOAA divers (S1
Table). Field work was conducted under PMNM permits PMNM-2015-029 and PMNM-2018-
029 to R. Kosaki. Samples were collected by SCUBA for molecular characterization and were
cleaned of epiphytes and placed in silica gel desiccant. Samples were preserved for morpholog-
ical characterization by fixing in 4% formalin/seawater. Morphological investigations were
conducted by hand sectioning with a double-edged razor blade, staining with 0.5% aniline
blue or 0.05% ruthenium red, and mounting in 30–50% Karo. Photomicrographs were taken
on a Zeiss AxioImager A1 compound light microscope (Pleasanton, CA) with an Infinity2-
1RC digital camera (Lumenera Corporation, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada). Morphological char-
acters that were measured or determined as described above were used to compare the new
specimens to all previously described taxa within the genus Chondria to determine if they rep-
resented a currently recognized taxon, or an undescribed species.
Specimens were extracted for genomic DNA using an OMEGA E.Z.N.A.1Plant DNA DS
Kit (OMEGA Biotek, Norcross, GA, USA). A portion of the COI DNA barcode marker
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
PLOS ONE | July 7, 2020 2 / 16
Funding: This work was supported by the
following: (1) U.S. National Science Foundation
(DEB-1754117) (ARS and HLS). https://www.nsf.
gov (2) the U.S. National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
(NFWF 0810.18.059023) (ARS and HLS). https:// The funders had no role in study
design, data collection and analysis, decision to
publish, or preparation of the manuscript. RK and
LG are employed by the NOAA, but no funding
from the NOAA was used in support of this
research. The scientific views and conclusions
expressed herein are those of the authors, and
should not be interpreted as representing the views
and opinions of NOAA, the Department of
Commerce, the National Science Foundation, or the
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its
funding sources. Mention of trade names or
commercial products does not constitute their
endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding
Competing interests: The authors have declared
that no competing interests exist.
(cytochrome oxidase subunit I, 658 bp) was amplified using the GazF1 and GazR1 primers [8]
or the GazF2 and Gaz R2 primers [10,11]. The rbcL (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/
oxygenase large subunit, 1,442 bp) marker was amplified as two overlapping fragments using
the primer pairs rbcLF7 and rbcLJNR1 [12,13] and rbcLF762 and rbcLR1442 [14]. The SSU
(small subunit ribosomal DNA, 1,038 bp) amplification was amplified in two overlapping frag-
ments with primer pairs SR1 and SR5, SR4 and SR9 [15]. Successful PCR products were sub-
mitted for sequencing to the GENEWIZ Corporation (South Plainfield, New Jersey, USA).
Raw sequence reads for each gene were assembled, edited, and aligned using the MUSCLE v.
3.8.425 plug-in [16] in Geneious Prime 2019.1.3 ( with related
sequences from GenBank and the Barcode of Life Datasystems (BOLD) Database (S2 Table).
BLAST comparisons to GenBank and BOLD were employed to examine taxonomic associa-
tions of the individual sequences, and to confirm that all analyzed sequences were from red
algae. DNA barcode analysis of the COI sequences was performed by constructing a neighbor-
joining (NJ) framework based on Kimura-2-parameter distances using MEGA X [17]. Refer-
ence rbcL and SSU sequences against which to compare the newly generated sequence data
were selected by searching for and including all Chondria and Neochondria sequences on Gen-
Bank, as well as representation of the remaining 20 tribes of the Rhodomelaceae, to the extent
possible. This yielded comparative data for 18 of the 20 remaining tribes for the rbcL marker,
and 19 for the SSU marker. Outgroups were selected following Dı
´az-Tapia et al. [18]. For the
rbcL and SSU phylogenetic analyses, sequences were aligned with reference sequences down-
loaded from GenBank and analyzed with PartitionFinder v. 1.1.1 [19]. Six COI sequences
from the Hawaiian Rhodophyta Biodiversity Survey [20] were also included in the analyses to
determine whether the new collections matched any previously known members of the genus.
New rbcL sequences were also generated for as many of these previously collected Hawaiian
specimens as possible, and included in the phylogenetic analyses. Maximum Likelihood (ML)
analyses were performed on all alignments using RAxML-HPC2 on XSEDE v. 8.2.10 [21] via
the CIPRES gateway [22] with 1,000 bootstrap replicates, and using the GTRCAT model.
Bayesian inference was performed using the MrBayes plug-in v. 3.2.6 [23] through Geneious
Prime 2019.1.3 ( using four chains of Metropolis-coupled Markov
Chain Monte Carlo for 1,000,000 generations and sampling every 100 generations; 100,000
chains were removed as burn-in prior to determining posterior probabilities.
The electronic version of this article in Portable Document Format (PDF) in a work with an
ISSN or ISBN will represent a published work according to the International Code of Nomen-
clature for algae, fungi, and plants, and hence the new names contained in the electronic publi-
cation of a PLOS article are effectively published under that Code from the electronic edition
alone, so there is no longer any need to provide printed copies.
In addition, new names contained in this work have been submitted to IPNI, from where
they will be made available to the Global Names Index. The IPNI LSIDs can be resolved and
the associated information viewed through any standard web browser by appending the LSID
contained in this publication to the prefix The online version of this work is
archived and available from the following digital repositories: PubMed Central, LOCKSS.
Preliminary microscopical analysis confirmed the PHA alga as a member of the red algal
genus Chondria, in the family Rhodomelaceae (Ceramiales). This identification was based on
cross sections of the alga revealing a central axial cell surrounded by five pericentral cells,
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
PLOS ONE | July 7, 2020 3 / 16
which were evident well beyond the apices of the thallus, the pericentral cells being surrounded
by a compact, cellular cortex to form a branched, terete thallus, and the presence of tetrahedral
tetrasporangia near the apices of secondary branches. Using this initial genus-level identifica-
tion, DNA sequence frameworks (COI) and phylogenies (rbcL and SSU) were constructed
with related representation for the three markers. All newly generated sequence data have
been submitted to GenBank (COI: MT039621—MT039626; rbcL: MT039601—MT039620;
SSU: MT039627—MT039630).
DNA barcoding and molecular phylogenetic analyses
Six samples of the PHA alga were sequenced for the COI barcoding region: One collected in
2016, and five collected in 2019. All six samples were identical in sequence. Using the BLAST
algorithm on GenBank and BOLD, this sequence was identified as likely belonging to the
genus Chondria, although a species-level match was not found. The NJ analysis demonstrated
that the Chondria sequence was unique from all other available sequences for the genus,
including those for other Hawaiian species of Chondria (Fig 1).
The molecular phylogenetic analysis of the rbcL marker for representatives of 18 of the 21
tribes of the Rhodomelaceae, is presented in Fig 2. Seven samples of the PHA alga were
sequenced for rbcL (all from 2019) and were identical in sequence, and analysis of this
sequence resolved it as sister to the other available sequences for the genus Chondria (Fig 2).
Additionally, sequences of Acanthophora and Acrocystis were resolved within the Chondria
clade. Five additional species-level clades of Hawaiian Chondria were resolved in the analysis
from samples sequenced for the rbcL marker from the 2010 Hawaiian Rhodophyta Biodiver-
sity Survey. Two of the five Hawaiian Chondria lineages corresponded morphologically to
what are referred to as C.arcuata Hollenberg and C.dangeardii E.Y.Dawson, while vouchers
were inconclusive for the taxonomic assignment of the remaining three lineages (sp. 1–3). All
five Hawaiian Chondria clades were clearly distinct from the PHA species (Fig 2).
Although fewer reference sequences were available for the SSU marker for the genus Chon-
dria overall, representation of the tribes of the Rhodomelaceae by SSU was slightly better than
for rbcL, and included 19 of 21 currently recognized tribes. Phylogenetic analysis of SSU
sequences demonstrated that the PHA Chondria was resolved as a distinct lineage that was sis-
ter to other sequences of Chondria, although support values for the relationship of this clade to
others within the genus were not high enough to allow confidence in the phylogenetic posi-
tioning of the samples (Fig 3). As for the rbcL analysis, sequences of other genera of the Chon-
drieae (e.g., Acanthophora,Acrocystis,Ululania) resolved within Chondria.
Taxonomic analyses
Of the 175 infrageneric taxonomic names currently listed on AlgaeBase, 60 are now considered
to be members of genera other than Chondria, and are thus discounted [24]. A further 23 taxa
are currently considered to be synonymous with other species in the genus Chondria [24]. The
original descriptions (or, in a few cases, subsequent monographs that included detailed taxo-
nomic analysis) were obtained and compared for all remaining described and currently recog-
nized species within the genus Chondria. A satisfactory match of taxonomic characters for the
PHA Chondria species and these 92 currently recognized species and infraspecific taxa of
Chondria was not found. Based on the unique combination of morphological features for the
PHA alga, in combination with the DNA barcoding and molecular phylogenetic results, we
propose this taxon as a new species within the genus Chondria.
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
PLOS ONE | July 7, 2020 4 / 16
Chondria tumulosa A.R.Sherwood et J.M.Huisman sp. nov. (Fig 4A–
Diagnosis. Differing from all other species of Chondria based on its large, robust thalli, its
mat-forming tendency, large axial diameter (which decreases in diameter with subsequent
orders of branching), terete axes, and bluntly rounded apices.
Description. Plants forming mounds/mats to many meters in horizontal extent, typically
growing on coral, composed of irregularly branched thalli with imbricating axes and numer-
ous anastomoses between branches, loosely attached to the substratum by haptera. Individual
thalli 2–7 cm in length, golden-brown to honey-colored, dark brown or purplish maroon,
branching to 3–4 orders, the degree of primary and secondary branching varying considerably,
often with short lateral branches, these seemingly determinate; axes terete; main axes 1190–
1430 μm in diameter, decreasing to (640) 830–1030 μm in lateral branches, and 280–325 μm in
next order branches. Young branchlets somewhat constricted at the base. Apices bluntly
rounded, with a small pit and occasional emergent trichoblasts. Mature epidermal cells
Fig 1. Neighbor-joining phylogram (K2P distances) of COI sequences of Chondria.The phylogram analysis demonstrates the
sequence divergence of C.tumulosa sp. nov. samples from other represented members of the genus, and illustrates that the newly
analyzed specimens from Pearl and Hermes Atoll do not match previously characterized specimens in the genus. Additional Hawaiian
specimens are shown in bold. Scale bar = substitutions per site.
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
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New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
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elongate-polygonal in shape, 30–45 μm x 7–13 μm (length:breadth 3.5–4.3) in surface view.
Internal rhizoids lacking. Lenticular thickenings occasionally present in medullary cells, often
absent. Tetrasporangia immersed at the apices of secondary or tertiary branches, several per
apex, to 120–125 μm in diameter x 150–185 μm long, subspherical, tetrahedrally divided.
Gametangial reproduction not observed.
Holotype. BISH 776132 (ARS 10154, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Hawai‘i (27º47.3952’N,
175º59.889’W), 12 m depth, 01.VIII.2019, leg. T. Williams (NWHI-879), sheet 1), tetrasporan-
gial plants.
Isotypes. BISH 776133 (ARS 10154, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Hawai‘i (27º47.3952’N,
175º59.889’W), 12 m depth, 01.VIII.2019, leg. T. Williams (NWHI-879), sheet 2, tetrasporan-
gial plants. HAW-43414 (ARS 10154, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Hawai‘i (27º47.3952’N,
175º59.889’W), 12 m depth, 01.VIII.2019, leg. T. Williams (NWHI-879), sheet 3), tetrasporan-
gial plants.
Etymology. Named for the mound-like morphology of the alga at the type locality; adjec-
tival form of the Latin “tumulans”, or a mound.
Distribution. Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monu-
ment, Hawai‘i, USA, from 1–19 m depth.
Specimens examined. ARS 09889, ARS 10151, ARS 10154 (BISH 776130–776133)
DNA sequence data. GenBank accessions MT039601-MT039607 (COI),
MT039621-MT039626 (rbcL), MT039627-MT039630 (SSU).
Habit and morphology. The mat- and mound-forming habit of C.tumulosa was noted at
low occurrence in the September 2016 collections and widely observed in the August/Septem-
ber 2019 surveys of PHA, with mats up to 1 m in extent easily removed from the substratum in
a single piece (Fig 4A–4C). Mats overgrow and cause mortality to native corals and macroalgae
by smothering saxicolous benthic communities. Cascades of the mat overgrow the tops and
ridges of spur and groove reefs, creating a homogenous reef landscape. Individual axes were
difficult to disentangle from the larger mats, and were composed of primary axes with second-
ary and tertiary branches that decreased in diameter with each order of branching (Fig 4D).
Mats in shallow (~1–3 m) water subject to wave motion were loosely attached to the substra-
tum via multicellular haptera, which were observable as thinner, darker, unbranched, multicel-
lular sections of the thallus on the underside of mats (Fig 4E). Mats in deeper (>3 m) water
with less wave motion were strongly attached to the substrate by haptera, with mats more diffi-
cult to remove as large pieces. Thalli ranged in color from golden-brownish to honey-colored
on the upper sides of mats exposed to higher levels of light, and dark brown or purplish
maroon on the undersides of mats, which received lower light levels (Fig 4D, 4E). Axes were
terete throughout the thalli, and no compressed regions were observed (Fig 4D and 4E). Apices
of branches were bluntly rounded, not tapered (Fig 4F), and in some cases, exhibited tufts of
trichoblasts emerging from a pit (Fig 4F and 4G). Cross sections through various points along
the apices revealed a typical rhodomelacean arrangement of five pericentral cells surrounding
a central axial cell, and occasional cell thickenings (Fig 4H). Cortical cells varied in shape, but
in mature portions of the plants were elongate-polygonal in surface view (Fig 4I). Tetrasporan-
gia were abundant in collections from the three cruises (Fig 4J and 4K), however no gametan-
gia or cystocarps were observed.
Fig 2. Maximum likelihood analysis of the red algal genus Chondria based on rbcL. Chondria tumulosa sp. nov. is
resolved as a distinct lineage within the tribe Chondrieae based on available rbcL sequences for representatives of the
Rhodomelaceae, and is shown to not match previously characterized Hawaiian samples. Numbers along branches
indicate nodal support (first value = bootstrap support, second value = Bayesian posterior probabilities). Nodes with
full support are indicated with an asterisk. Hawaiian specimens are shown in bold. Scale bar = substitutions per site.
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
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New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
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Chondria tumulosa was found on spur and groove reefs, aggregate patch reefs, and hard sub-
strate from the edge of the backreef to forereef, but was not observed within the lagoon interior
or at mesophotic depths. The alga’s highest abundance occurred at 10–15 m depth on the fore-
reef, where it formed thick mats up to 18 cm thick that mounded over the reef, smothering
coral, native macroalgae, and other organisms. This seaweed covered large areas of reef and
was observed in dense patches covering up to several thousand square meters each. Large thick
mats were observed abrading and sloughing off the reef, revealing completely bare substrate
and dead corals underneath. Coral genera observed being smothered by this alga included
native species of Porites,Pocillopora,Leptastrea,Montipora,Cyphastrea,Pavona,Fungia, and
Psammocora. Native fishes were not observed to graze on C.tumulosa over the period of these
dives at PHA.
Five species of Chondria were recorded in the most recent floristic treatment of Hawaiian red
algae: C.arcuata,C.dangeardii,C.minutula Weber-van Bosse, C.polyrhiza, and C.simplicius-
cula Weber-van Bosse [25]. Abbott [25] noted, however, that several additional names were
recorded in the literature for the Hawaiian flora: C.baileyana (Montagne) Harvey, C.tenuis-
sima (Withering) C.Agardh (and some of its varieties) and C.repens Børgesen (which she
updated to C.polyrhiza Collins et Hervey). Abbott also remarked that only approximately half
of the Chondria specimens in Hawaiian collections could be identified to species given the lack
of reproductive material in the collections. Of the species recorded above, only C.simplicius-
cula bears any morphological similarity to the Chondria species collected from Pearl and Her-
mes Atoll; however, C.simpliciuscula can be excluded from consideration based on our
specimens having larger diameter axes (to 1430 μm versus 900 μm), larger tetrasporangia (to
125 x 185 μm versus to 55 μm diameter) and smaller epidermal cells (30–45 μm x 7–13 μm ver-
sus 78–92 x 8–20 μm) [25,26].
Broader comparisons of the PHA Chondria yielded no clear match to other described spe-
cies in the genus. The large, robust, mat-forming tendency of C.tumulosa, combined with its
terete axes and bluntly rounded apices, set it apart from all other currently recognized species.
Many Chondria species are either small, slender, epiphytic, and/or have flattened axes or
pointed apices, all of which are characters that differ markedly from the alga collected from
PHA [27,28,29]. However, a few species bear some similarity to the new species and are worthy
of more direct comparison. Chondria transversalis Børgesen shares a clumped habit and simi-
lar apex morphology with C.tumulosa, but this species is much smaller overall than C.tumu-
losa; additionally, the axes of C.transversalis are all of similar diameter, which contrasts with
the sharp decrease in axis diameter with each order of branching in C.tumulosa [29,30]. Chon-
dria infestans (A.H.S.Lucas) A.J.K.Millar also attaches via multicellular haptera; however, it is
prostrate with flattened axes, and so quite different in morphology from C.tumulosa [31,32].
Chondria littoralis Harvey has fusiform laterals that taper to base and apex, which differs from
the terete and mostly unconstricted axes of our species, although it has been reported as dense
and spreading at Key West, Florida, suggesting some similarity in its ability to grow to nui-
sance or near-nuisance levels [33]. Chondria hapteroclada C.K.Tseng is reasonably close in
Fig 3. Maximum likelihood analysis of the red algal genus Chondria based on nuclear SSU. Chondria tumulosa sp. nov. is resolved as a distinct clade within the tribe
Chondrieae, based on sequences available SSU sequences for representatives of the Rhodomelaceae. Numbers along branches indicate nodal support (first
value = bootstrap support, second value = Bayesian posterior probabilities). Nodes with full support are indicated with an asterisk. Hawaiian specimens are shown in
bold. Scale bar = substitutions per site.
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New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
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morphology to the PHA alga, but C.hapteroclada is smaller overall, with axes up to 0.72 mm,
and has tetrasporangia that are also reported up to only approximately 90 μm [34], which is
substantially smaller than C.tumulosa.Chondria tumulosa shares an irregularly branched
habit and large stature with C.telmoensis E.Y.Dawson, as well as obtuse apices and similar api-
cal pits with emergent trichoblasts. However, C.telmoensis differs in being loosely and openly
branched in habit, in contrast to the clumped, matted habit of C.tumulosa, in addition to hav-
ing larger tetrasporangia than C.tumulosa [35]. Finally, C.densa P. Dangeard is similar to C.
tumulosa in its abundant and dense growth, and highly branched habit with a tendency to
form stolons, but differs in several characters; the axis diameter and tetrasporangia are much
larger for C.tumulosa, while the epidermal cells are smaller [36].
Molecular phylogenetic analysis of rbcL gene sequences revealed a tree topology largely
consistent with those reported by Sutti et al. [37] and Dı
´az-Tapia et al. [18]. Neochondria was
resolved as sister to the Laurencieae and Chondrieae in both this study and Sutti et al. [37]
(and was not addressed in Dı
´az-Tapia et al. [18]), suggesting either that Neochondria requires
re-assignment to its own tribe, or that the two tribes should be merged. Additionally, as in pre-
vious studies, the Laurencieae and Chondrieae (minus Neochondria) are resolved as distinct
clades [18,37,38]. Within the Chondrieae, C.tumulosa was resolved as sister to a clade contain-
ing all other Chondria sequences, indicating that this species does not likely represent a recent
evolutionary event within the genus. Nevertheless, morphological analysis of the voucher spec-
imens indicates that these specimens fit within the circumscription of Chondria, rather than a
different genus. The SSU phylogeny, although consisting of far fewer sequences than the rbcL
phylogeny, also resolved the Laurencieae and Chondrieae as distinct tribes. As for the rbcL
analysis, C.tumulosa was shown to be a member of the genus Chondria, and distinct from all
other sequenced species within the genus, while recognizing that the proportion of species
within Chondria that have representative sequence data is still very small (26% for rbcL, and
only 2% for SSU).
The lack of a close morphological match, combined with the unique molecular signature of
the new specimens, and the absence of previous records in the Hawaiian Islands of a similar
taxon, indicate that the best path forward is through description of the PHA alga as a new spe-
cies. Although it remains a possibility that future comparisons of DNA sequence data from
other Chondria specimens (including type specimens) may reveal identity with C.tumulosa,
this would be easily remedied through taxonomic synonymy. The opposite approach, i.e.,
force-fitting this nuisance species into a current taxonomic entity, or leaving its species-level
affinity unresolved (i.e., as Chondria sp.), is not a desirable path, considering the sudden and
large ecological impact of this species. Moreover, the taxonomic uncertainty of many of the
earlier described species in the genus (a challenge for the entire discipline of phycological sys-
tematics) means that, pragmatically, molecular comparisons of all species will never be
achieved [39]. By assigning a scientific name and recognizing this taxon as distinct, it can be
Fig 4. Morphological features of Chondria tumulosa sp.nov. A. View of Chondria overgrowing the coral reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll (PHA)
at 12 m depth, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Hawai‘i, USA. Scale bar = 30 cm. B. Close view of Chondria tumulosa at PHA.
Scale bar = 10 cm. C. Macroscopic view of the edge of a mat of Chondria tumulosa, illustrating the intertwined and mat-like growth of the alga,
and the color variations from yellowish to purple. Scale bar = 2 cm. D. Close up view of several main axes that were separated from the upper
surface of a mat, illustrating the numerous secondary and tertiary branches from the main axis. Scale bar = 5 mm. E. Close up view of several
main axes that were separated from the lower surface of a mat, illustrating the darker color and slender haptera (arrow) used for attachment of
the mat to the substratum. Scale bar = 5 mm. F. A branch apex, focused internally to illustrate the apical depression, or pit. Scale bar = 50 μm. G.
A branch tip, focused to illustrate trichoblasts emerging from the pit. Scale bar = 50 μm. H. Cross section of Chondria tumulosa stained with
ruthenium red, demonstrating the typical rhodomelacean structure, with a central axial cell (a) surrounded by five pericentral cells (p). Cell wall
thickenings are indicated in some cells (arrows) outside of this central structure. Scale bar = 50 μm. I. Surface view of cortical cells in the
epidermal layer. Scale bar = 50 μm. J. Tetrasporangia developing towards the apices of secondary and tertiary axes. Scale bar = 200 μm. K. Close-
up of a tetrahedrally divided tetrasporangium, stained with aniline blue. Scale bar = 100 μm.
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
PLOS ONE | July 7, 2020 11 / 16
clearly and unambiguously referenced in the literature assessing its environmental impact, its
geographical extent through traditional survey and eDNA detection methods, and attempts to
control its spread. This approach is particularly important for species that are studied from
remote and not easily accessible locations, such as the PMNM, because opportunities to return,
collect, and analyze taxa from this region are very limited [40].
Biological invasions by introduced species have a profound effect on species diversity
[41,42,43] and fundamentally shift the ecology of a region by modifying ecosystem processes,
community composition, and food-web dynamics [44,45]. However, the exact meaning of the
word “invasive” can be unclear with respect to macroalgae [46], particularly when the origin of
the alga is undetermined (i.e., “cryptogenic”) and the alga is clearly having a harmful effect on
the environment. Executive Order (EO) 13112, discussed by Beck et al. [47], defines an “inva-
sive” species as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or
environmental harm or harm to human health.” In the Executive Summary of the National
Invasive Species Management Plan (NISMP) the term “invasive species” is further clarified
and defined as “a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose
introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human
health.” Williams and Smith [48] define “introduced” as a species introduced beyond its native
range by human activities and successfully established; the “invasibility” of a system is the sus-
ceptibility of a native community to the establishment of an introduced species. The term
“invasive” thus refers to a condition whereby an introduced species becomes excessively abun-
dant, usually causing ecological or economic harm [48,49], where the introduced species acts
as a new keystone species, either having a strong impact on the native keystone species or
replacing it [49]. The Chondria species described herein was observed overgrowing native reef
organisms, and replacing native keystone species, which would best be described as a type of
invasive behavior. Additional molecular analyses from Chondria species throughout the Pacific
are needed to confirm whether this is an introduced species to PHA, or a new species that
recently and quickly became highly abundant. While others have considered that native algae
able to exhibit emerging invasive behaviors, those examples are typically in habitats under
extreme stress such as persistent blooms of Dictyosphaeria cavernosa (Forsskål) Børgesen on
reefs of Kāne‘ohe Bay during extreme periods of land-based sources of pollution [50,51]. Until
the origin of Chondria tumulosa is clarified, we qualify this species as exhibiting invasive char-
acteristics, given its sudden appearance, rapid overgrowth and ecological harm to the coral
reef ecosystem. Potential vectors of introduction for this alga include marine debris and fishing
gear as well as hull fouling or ballast water [46,48]. Given the protected nature of the PMNM it
will be difficult-to-impossible to confirm the mode of introduction, especially while the bio-
geographic origin of the seaweed remains a mystery. Nonetheless, the possibility exists that
changing ocean and benthic community conditions associated with climate change delivered
and enabled this new seaweed to establish and then thrive on PHA reefs. Although studies doc-
umenting changes in invasive seaweed distributions with climate change are limited, there is
increasing evidence that climate change-related range shifts in seaweed distributions are likely
to occur [52], and that benthic habitat transformations related to climate change increase the
abundance of invasive seaweeds [53].
Globally, several other species of Chondria have been reported as introduced and of con-
cern. For example, C.coerulescens (J.Agardh) Sauvageau, C.curvilineata Collins et Hervey, and
C.pygmaea Garbary et Vandermeulen were likely introduced in the Mediterranean in the last
several decades [54]. Additionally, the rhodomelacean alga, Acanthophora spicifera, is well
known and documented as an invasive species in the Main Hawaiian Islands [1], and bears
limited morphological similarity to C.tumulans. However, none of these species has exhibited
the rapid abundance, mat formation, and overgrowth observed in C.tumulosa at PHA.
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
PLOS ONE | July 7, 2020 12 / 16
Although C.tumulosa has only very recently been detected at PHA (2016 and 2019), consider-
able alarm has been raised over its potential ecological impact (https://www. This species is, to the
best of our knowledge, the most persistent of the relatively few nuisance algae reported from
PMNM, and its invasive characteristics are deeply concerning for coral reef ecosystem health
beyond PHA to the broader region of PMNM. If this algal is a harbinger of changes coming,
rapid responses are needed to this new threat [47,48]. Effective responses rely, in part, on accu-
rate taxonomic identification, which we aim to provide through its recognition as Chondria
tumulosa sp. nov.
A newly discovered species of macroalga exhibiting invasive characteristics at Pearl and Her-
mes Atoll, PMNM, Hawai‘i, USA, is described as a new species, Chondria tumulosa sp. nov.
This new species description is supported by a combination of morphological comparisons to
previously described species in the genus, and molecular phylogenetic comparisons to closely
related taxa. Observed at PHA since 2016, the rapid increase in areal coverage of the alga in the
three years between surveys, combined with its mat-forming abilities and “tumbleweed” frag-
mentation, led to the realization that this seaweed has the potential to significantly alter the
pristine reef ecological structure at this remote atoll and throughout the Hawaiian archipelago
if or when it spreads to other islands and atolls. This formal description represents the first
step toward understanding the biogeographical origin and ecology of the alga leading to the
development of appropriate management recommendations.
Supporting information
S1 Table. Specimens of Chondria tumulosa sp. nov. characterized as part of the current
S2 Table. Accession data for sequences used in phylogenetic analyses.
We thank the accomplished divers associated with the PMNM, and the officers and crew of
the NOAA ships Hi‘ialakai and Rainier for access to Pearl and Hermes Atoll. The University
of Hawai‘i at Hilo and NOAA PMNM supported field work by T. Williams. H. Barkley and
divers of NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center assisted with collection and preser-
vation of additional specimens.
Author Contributions
Conceptualization: Alison R. Sherwood, John M. Huisman, Taylor M. Williams, Randall K.
Kosaki, Heather L. Spalding.
Data curation: Alison R. Sherwood, Monica O. Paiano.
Formal analysis: Alison R. Sherwood, John M. Huisman, Monica O. Paiano.
Funding acquisition: Alison R. Sherwood, Randall K. Kosaki, Heather L. Spalding.
Investigation: Alison R. Sherwood, John M. Huisman, Monica O. Paiano, Taylor M. Williams,
Randall K. Kosaki, Celia M. Smith, Louise Giuseffi, Heather L. Spalding.
New seaweed from Pearl and Hermes Atoll
PLOS ONE | July 7, 2020 13 / 16
Methodology: Alison R. Sherwood, John M. Huisman, Monica O. Paiano, Taylor M. Williams,
Randall K. Kosaki, Heather L. Spalding.
Project administration: Alison R. Sherwood, Heather L. Spalding.
Supervision: Alison R. Sherwood, Randall K. Kosaki, Heather L. Spalding.
Writing – original draft: Alison R. Sherwood, Randall K. Kosaki, Celia M. Smith, Heather L.
Writing – review & editing: Alison R. Sherwood, John M. Huisman, Monica O. Paiano, Tay-
lor M. Williams, Randall K. Kosaki, Celia M. Smith, Louise Giuseffi, Heather L. Spalding.
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... In 2019, a previously undescribed red alga (Chondria tumulosa) was found overgrowing large areas of the reef (including live corals, Fig. 1) at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll) in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Sherwood et al. 2020). Chondria tumulosa forms large mounds or mats up to 20 cm in height that are loosely attached to hard substrate and composed of densely packed, tangled thalli (Sherwood et al. 2020). ...
... In 2019, a previously undescribed red alga (Chondria tumulosa) was found overgrowing large areas of the reef (including live corals, Fig. 1) at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll) in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Sherwood et al. 2020). Chondria tumulosa forms large mounds or mats up to 20 cm in height that are loosely attached to hard substrate and composed of densely packed, tangled thalli (Sherwood et al. 2020). Currently, this alga is described as cryptogenic because its origin is unresolved. ...
... This suggests the transition to a C. tumulosa-dominated benthic habitat in the northeast backreef AOI occurred sometime after 2015. This chronology of C. tumulosa spread at Manawai supports the timeline documented in benthic survey data collected over the past 20 years (Sherwood et al. 2020). ...
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Satellite imagery is a useful tool for monitoring and mapping the distribution of invasive or nuisance algal species on coral reefs over the temporal and spatial scales needed for ecosystem management. Visual inspections of high-resolution satellite imagery were used to detect the newly discovered nuisance alga, Chondria tumulosa, at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll) in combination with ground-truthing surveys. Low-albedo (“dark”) survey sites on spur habitats were associated with mean C. tumulosa cover seven times higher than adjacent high-albedo (“light”) sites. There was an inverse relationship between C. tumulosa percent cover at ground-truthing sites and mean reflectance values. Archival satellite imagery showed that areas of high C. tumulosa cover (i.e., dark patches) were not evident on or before 2015 on the northeast backreef. The ability to use satellites for the detection of nuisance or invasive benthic species, such as expansive mats of C. tumulosa, provides managers with a valuable tool, especially in remote regions.
... With the exception of the recent discovery of the cryptogenic, invasive-like alga Chondria tumulosa (Sherwood et al. 2020), the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands do not contain invasive macroalgae. In comparison, the Main Hawaiian Islands contain several species of invasive Chlorophyta and Rhodophyta (Smith et al. 2002;Foster et al. 2019). ...
... Because of this, we examined site-specific differences at the level of island/atoll. Manawai was the most extensively surveyed atoll in August 2019 due to the discovery of the cryptogenic red alga C. tumulosa that displayed invasive traits across the reefs (Sherwood et al. 2020). Understanding whether algal tissue nitrogen concentrations differ at various sites at Manawai could provide insight into processes that may increase the growth or occurrence of this cryptogenic alga. ...
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The Hawaiian Archipelago stretches 2500 km from the Main to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, represents a complex gradient of oceanographic and anthropogenic drivers, and has a high abundance and diversity of native and invasive macroalgae. These photosynthetic organisms occur in intertidal to mesophotic (30–150+ m) depths and absorb nitrogen with limited fractionation associated with their physiology and source. Our goal was to examine nitrogen dynamics from shallow to mesophotic reefs using compositional patterns of two well‐characterized macroalgal tissue parameters: stable isotope ratio of nitrogen and tissue nitrogen content. We collected 813 macroalgal samples from 13 islands/atolls between 0 and 117 m depths. Within the Main Hawaiian Islands, macroalgal tissue stable N isotope ratios were higher in mesophotic depths; N content was higher in shallow depths. However, within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, no differences in stable N isotope ratios and N content were found between shallow and mesophotic depths. Regionally, stable N isotope ratios varied along a gradient of anthropogenic and oceanographic processes (in Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, respectively), while N content reflected elevated nitrogen in the Main compared with the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Additionally, the invasive macroalga Avrainvillea lacerata had significantly higher N content than co‐occurring native bryopsidalean macroalgae at similar depths, and may be reshaping nutrient dynamics from shallow to mesophotic depths in the Main Hawaiian Islands. Nitrogen dynamics at mesophotic depths may be influenced by nearshore anthropogenically derived nitrogen via submarine groundwater discharge and/or inputs from deeper water within the Main Hawaiian Islands.
... A plausible explanation is that S. arecina could be a human-mediated old introduction in southern Europe. Numerous cryptic or cryptogenic species have been reported in the Ceramiales (Williams and Smith 2007, Thomsen et al. 2016, D ıaz-Tapia et al. 2017a, Sherwood et al. 2020, Piñeiro-Corbeira et al. 2020a, highlighting the need to improve molecular datasets in this diverse red algal order for which only a small proportion of the diversity has been molecularly characterized. However, the introduction hypothesis cannot be confirmed for S. arecina, as its potential distribution beyond southern Europe is at present unsupported by the available molecular information. ...
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Molecular analyses, in combination with morphological studies, provide invaluable tools for delineating red algal taxa. However, molecular datasets are incomplete and taxonomic revisions are often required once additional species or populations are sequenced. The small red alga Conferva parasitica was described from the British Isles in 1762 and then reported from other parts of Europe. Conferva parasitica was traditionally included in the genus Pterosiphonia (type species P. cloiophylla in Schmitz and Falkenberg 1897), based on its morphological characters, and later transferred to Symphyocladia and finally to Symphyocladiella using molecular data from an Iberian specimen. However, although morphological differences have been observed between specimens of Symphyocladiella parasitica from northern and southern Europe they have yet to be investigated in a phylogenetic context. In this study, we collected specimens from both regions, studied their morphology and analyzed rbcL and cox1 DNA sequences. We determined the phylogenetic position of a British specimen using a phylogenomic approach based on mitochondrial and plastid genomes. Northern and southern European populations attributed to S. parasitica represent different species. Symphyocladiella arecina sp. nov. is proposed for specimens from southern Europe, but British specimens were resolved as a distant sister lineage to the morphologically distinctive Amplisiphonia, so we propose the new genus Deltalsia for this species. Our study highlights the relevance of using materials collected close to the type localities for taxonomic reassessments, and showcases the utility of genome‐based phylogenies for resolving classification issues in the red algae.
... As climate change continues to affect coral reefs, reef communities may respond and shift-additional macroalgal species, which are rare or cryptic and were previously overlooked, may become more abundant. For example, the fleshy red alga, Chondria tumulosa may have been a sparse and cryptic species at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that increased in abundance and spread rapidly after changes in ecosystem conditions (Sherwood et al., 2020a). Changes in nutrient concentrations (Stimson, 2015), water temperature (Boudouresque and Verlaque, 2010;Dijkstra et al., 2019), and greenhouse gas concentrations (Fernańdez de la Hoz et al., 2019) have been linked to coral-macroalgal phase shifts on reefs, range shifts in macroalgal distribution, and changes in macroalgal abundances. ...
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The recently described crustose calcifying red algal species Ramicrusta hawaiiensis, known only from mesophotic depths off Lehua Island, west of Kaua’i Island, was found in shallow benthic reef habitats (3-18 m deep) along the western coast of Hawai’i Island. Molecular and microscopy techniques were used for genetic confirmation and for detailed morphological and anatomical examination. Two independent benthic cover survey datasets collected from west Hawai’i Island were used to investigate temporal and geographic distribution of Ramicrusta. In both datasets, we report Ramicrusta at approximately 60% of the sites surveyed. Benthic cover for this alga varies among sites and among years and its presence in west Hawai’i is evident since at least 2003. These findings help to document Hawaiian coral reef ecosystem change and benthic community composition reshuffling. This study also emphasizes the critical importance of taxonomy and proper identification of macroalgal species to understand the potential for phase-shifts of dominant taxa in coral reef ecosystems after environmental disturbances and fluctuations in abiotic factors. In the last decade, members of the red algal order Peyssonneliales have increased in abundance and overgrown other benthic species in reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and tropical Pacific. The novel aspect of finding abundant Ramicrusta in much shallower water than originally described, the decadal presence of Ramicrusta, and its potential for competition with other benthic organisms make this research valuable to coral reef ecology and justify further investigation of Ramicrusta ecology and biology in the Hawaiian Islands and globally.
... The phylogenomic tree was constructed using previously published complete plastid genome sequences from 31 red algal species within the order Ceramiales and showed C. tumulosa positioned as sister to three representatives of Chondria identified only to the genus level, forming a sister clade to the Laurencieae tribe, with full support (Figure 1). The previous phylogenetic analysis based on the rbcL and SSU genes (plastid and nuclear) showed C. tumulosa as distinct from the other species of the genus (Sherwood et al. 2020). In the present study, phylogenomic analysis based on the complete chloroplast genome sequence reaffirms the position of C. tumulosa as a new species within the Chondrieae tribe of the red algal family Rhodomelaceae. ...
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The complete chloroplast genome of Chondria tumulosa, a red alga from Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll), Hawai‘i, was determined and analyzed using next-generation sequencing and de novo assembly approaches. The chloroplast genome sequence of C. tumulosa was 172,617 bp and contained 231 genes, consisting of 197 protein-coding genes, 29 transfer RNA genes, three ribosomal RNA genes, one transfer-messenger RNA gene, one non-coding RNA gene, and one intron inserted into the trnM gene. The number of genes and genome structure was largely similar to other members of the family Rhodomelaceae. The phylogenomic analysis of 32 complete cpDNA from the red algal order Ceramiales showed that C. tumulosa is a distinct species within the Chondrieae tribe, and is a diverging early relative to the other three available Chondria chloroplast genomes.
... baileyana, C. dangeardii, C. repens, C. simpliciuscula, C. ryukyuensis) (Titlyanov et al., 2015a), the potential in this rather cryptic growing group is high. Nevertheless, despite the observed patchiness in our study, care has to be taken as members of this genus, like C. tumulosa were recently reported to start overgrowing Hawaiian coral reefs (Sherwood et al., 2020). ...
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Tropical coastal ecosystems provide a unique complex marine habitat with a high diversity of algal species, Vietnam being a particular hotspot. These algae may host a variety of potential unknown or underestimated bioactive algal compounds. In parallel the worldwide rising interest in macroalgae-based products lead to increasing activities in seaweed natural harvest and mariculture within coastal waters With this growing interest, the present work provides baseline data for a systematic and science-based macroalgal monitoring program in Nha Trang Bay, Vietnam, to keep track of potentially interesting taxa and to identify driving environmental factors which may also naturally influence biodiversity and species abundance. The present study investigated macrophyte diversity and abundance by combining a qualitative and quantitative macroalgal survey approach with environmental sampling (e.g. physicochemical properties of water column, underwater light regime, and sediment characteristics). Surveys were performed in the dry season (May/June) 2019 in different water depths (3, 6 and 10 m) at seven sites within Nha Trang Bay. The study revealed a coastal patchwork of diverse habitats inhabited by complex macrophyte communities, including estuarine dense Sargassum forests and Turbinaria meadows, sheltered sandy seagrass (Halodule spp.) beds with upcoming Lyngbya blooms, low diverse Padina deserts and highly turbid aquaculture (lobster and fish farms) impacted sites with surprisingly high macroalgal diversity. During our study a total of 86 macrophyte species were encountered in the subtidal (>1 m water depth), whereas only 6 species (Padina australis, Sargassum mcclurei, Turbinaria ornata, Halimeda discoidea, Amphiroa fragilissima, Tricleocarpa cylindrical) were frequently found at every survey site. The observed high patchiness and presence of economically important (e.g. Sargassum spp., Gracilaria spp., Caulerpa spp., Gelidiella acerosa, Acanthophora spicifera) and potentially economically interesting (e.g. Padina australis, Turbinaria ornata, Stypopodium zonale, Chondria armata) taxa during the survey underlines the high potential of the present macrophytic bio-resource, which apparently is strongly structured and will be altered by the changing heterogenic environment.
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This updated list is composed of a total of 661 records, which includes 71 brown algae, 450 red algae, 137 green algae, and three seagrasses, with an overall rate of endemism of 13.2%. Almost half (46.7%) of the Hawaiian records presented here are represented by at least one DNA sequence, while 16.3% are confirmed through a DNA sequence match to a topotype, and 6.7% are confirmed through a DNA sequence match to a type specimen. The data are presented in the context of the natural history of the Hawaiian Islands, which is heavily influenced by the volcanic hotspot origin of the archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the important cultural role of seaweeds and other marine plants in Hawai‘i, and the current threats to marine ecosystems, which include the introduction and proliferation of a number of invasive marine macroalgae.
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Landscape patterns created by the structure and form of foundational species shape ecological processes of community assembly and trophic interactions. In recent years, major shifts in foundation species have occurred in multiple ecosystems. In temperate marine systems, many kelp beds have shifted to turf macroalgae habitats with unknown consequences on seascape patterns or changes in the ecological processes that maintain communities. We investigated the effect of turf macroalgae on seascape patterns in three habitats dominated by kelp and turf macroalgae and those that have mixed species composition. We also examined decadal elevations in temperature with known growth and reproductive phenology of kelp and turf macroalgae to provide a mechanistic understanding of the factors that will continue to shape these seascapes. Our results indicate that turf macroalgae produce a more heterogeneous habitat with greater primary free space than those that are mixed or dominated by kelp. Further, we examined the relationship between seascape patterns and richness and abundance of fishes in each habitat. Results showed that patch size was positively related to the abundance of fish in habitat types, suggesting that turf‐induced heterogeneity may lead to fewer observed fishes, specifically the mid‐trophic level species, cunner, in these habitats. Overall, our results suggest that persistence of this habitat is facilitated by increasing temperature that shorten the phenology of kelps and favor growth and reproduction of turf macroalgae that make them poised to take advantage of free space, regardless of season.
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Fifty-six specimens of the red algal genus Martensia from the Main and North-western Hawaiian Islands, representing both shallow (36 specimens from 0–20 m depth) and mesophotic habitats (20 specimens from 62–93 m depth), were collected and characterized using morphological and molecular analyses. Phylogenetic analyses of the rbcL gene resolved five distinct clades of Martensia from the Hawaiian Islands, of which none could be attributed to the two previously used taxonomic 15 names for this flora ( M. fragilis Harvey and M. flabelliformis Harvey ex J.Agardh). Analyses of the COI barcoding region were consistent with rbcL trends, although fewer specimens amplified and sequenced for this marker. Four rbcL clades (lineages 1–4) were distinct from each other and from other described species of Martensia based on both phylogenetic position and morphological characters and are here described as new species: Martensia abbottiae A.R.Sherwood & S.-M. Lin sp. nov., Martensia hawaiiensis A.R.Sherwood & S.-M. Lin sp. nov., Martensia tsudae A.R.Sherwood & S.-M. Lin sp. nov., 20 and Martensia lauhiekoeloa A.R.Sherwood & S.-M. Lin sp. nov. Lineage 5 is attributable to M . albida Y.Lee. All five species in the Hawaiian flora occur in mesophotic habitats, while M. hawaiiensis , Martensia tsudae , and M. albida also inhabit shallow waters of the Main Hawaiian Islands. This study provides additional support for the degree of uncharacterized biodiversity from mesophotic depths in the Hawaiian Archipelago.
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Extrinsic mortality impinging on negative density‐dependent populations can result in no change in the number of survivors (compensation) or an increase (overcompensation) by releasing the population from density‐dependent effects on survivorship. The relationship between the level of extrinsic mortality (i.e., percentage of mortality) and the level and likelihood of overcompensation is theoretically important, but rarely investigated. We tested the hypothesis that overcompensation occurs below a threshold value of extrinsic mortality that is related to density‐dependent mortality rate and that additive extrinsic mortality occurs above this threshold. This hypothesis predicts that survivorship vs. extrinsic mortality will (1) be best described by a two‐segmented model with a threshold; (2) have a slope >0 below the threshold; and (3) have a slope = −1 above the threshold. We also tested whether mortality imposed by real predators and random harvest have equivalent effects on adult production and whether magnitude of overcompensation is related to species sensitivity to density dependence. These hypotheses were tested in the container mosquitoes Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, Aedes triseriatus, and Culex pipiens (Diptera: Culicidae). Cohorts of 150 larvae were exposed to random harvest of 0–70% two days after hatch or to predation by 1–3 Mesocyclops longisetus (Crustacea: Copepoda). Overcompensation occurred in A. aegypti in a pattern consistent with predictions. Aedes triseriatus showed strong overcompensation but no evidence of a threshold, whereas A. albopictus and C. pipiens had survival consistent with compensatory mortality but no evidence of a threshold. Compared to random harvest, mortality from predation yielded greater adult production in A. aegypti and A. albopictus, lesser adult production in C. pipiens, and no difference in adult production in A. triseriatus. Our results are largely consistent with our hypothesis about overcompensation, with the caveat that thresholds for additive mortality appear to occur at very high levels of extrinsic mortality. Magnitudes of overcompensation for the three Aedes were inversely related to survival in the 0% mortality treatment, consistent with our hypothesis that overcompensation is related to sensitivity to density dependence. A broad range of extrinsic mortality levels can yield overcompensation, which may have practical implications for attempts to control pest populations.
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Algal assemblages are critical components of marine ecosystems from the intertidal to mesophotic depths; they act as primary producers, nutrient cyclers, and substrate providers. Coral reef ecosystems can be disrupted by stressors such as storm events, effluent inundation, sudden temperature shifts, and non-native invaders. Avrainvillea amadelpha is an invasive green alga that was first recorded in the main Hawaiian Islands on the west shore of Oahu and has continued to be of concern due to its extreme competitiveness with native algae and seagrasses. It has spread rapidly across the island of Oahu, decreasing the biodiversity of the benthos from shorelines to ∼90 m depth. We employed a boosted regression tree modeling framework to identify highly vulnerable regions prone to invasion. Our model indicated that regions exposed to minimal bottom currents and at least five degree heating weeks are particularly susceptible to A. amadelpha colonization. Additionally, we extrapolated our model to the main Hawaiian Islands and forecasted how a 25% increase in statewide annual maximum degree heating weeks may change habitat suitability for A. amadelpha. Across all islands, we identified particularly vulnerable “hotspot” regions of concern for resource managers and conservationists. This manuscript demonstrates the utility of this approach for identifying priority regions for invasive species management in the face of a changing climate.
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A second species in the siphonous green algal genus Avrainvillea was recently discovered off the island of O‘ahu in the Main Hawaiian Islands. Specimens were collected from Honolulu Harbor, including its entrance channel, and near Ke‘ehi Harbor. These locations are both in Mālama Bay on O‘ahu’s south shore in or adjacent to urbanized estuaries, respectively. In situ observations, morphological and molecular assessments were conducted to examine the alga’s habit and distribution, as well as to assess its putative species identification. The alga occurred in sand as single individuals or in clusters of several individuals at both sites, and near or within seagrass beds ( Halophiladecipiens ) and algal meadows composed of the green alga Halimedakanaloana and an unidentified Udotea species at the Ke‘ehi Harbor site. All analyses supported both populations as representative of the same taxa, reported until further investigation in the broad Pacific as Avrainvilleacf.erecta based on morphological and molecular analyses. This record of a second Avrainvillea species in Hawai'i is of particular concern considering that an alga recognized as A.amadelpha , first observed in 1981 from two locales on O‘ahu’s south shore, has become invasive in Hawai‘i’s intertidal to mesophotic environments.
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The molecular evolutionary genetics analysis (Mega) software implements many analytical methods and tools for phylogenomics and phylomedicine. Here, we report a transformation of Mega to enable cross-platform use on Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Mega X does not require virtualization or emulation software and provides a uniform user experience across platforms. Mega X has additionally been upgraded to use multiple computing cores for many molecular evolutionary analyses. Mega X is available in two interfaces (graphical and command line) and can be downloaded from free of charge.
There are evidences of how climate change is affecting seaweeds distribution and the ecosystems services they provide. Therefore, it is necessary to consider these impacts when managing marine areas. One of the most applied tools in recent years to deal with this are species distribution models, however there are still some challenges to solve, such as the inclusion of hydrodynamic predictors and the application of effective, transferable and user-oriented methodologies. Five species (Saccorhiza polyschides, Gelidium spinosum, Sargassum muticum, Pelvetia canaliculata and Cystoseira baccata)in Europe and 15 variables were considered. Nine of them were projected to the RCPs 4.5 and 8.5 for the mid-term (2040–2069)and the long term (2070–2099). Algorithms for each species were applied to generate models that were assessed by comparison of probabilities and observations (area under the curve, true skill statistics, Boyce index, sensitivity, correct classification rate), niches overlap (Schoener's D, Hellinger's I), geographical similarity (interquartile range)and ecological realism. Models built demonstrated very good predictive accuracy and sensitivity, without overfitting risk. A medium overlap in the historical and RCPs environmental conditions were obtained, therefore the models can be considered transferable and results accurate because only some isolated points were detected as outliers, corresponding to low probabilities. The areas of S. polyschides and G. spinosum have been identified to be dramatically reduced, meanwhile S. muticum and C. baccata were predicted to expand their range. P. canaliculata was expected to keep its sites of presence but with a decrease in its probability of occurrence. For all species it was remarkable the importance of hydrodynamic variables and parameters representing extreme conditions. Spatially predictions of the potential species and areas at risk are decisive for defining management strategies and resource allocation. The performance and usefulness of the approach applied in this study have been demonstrated for algae with different ecological requirements (from upper littoral to subtidal)and distributional patterns (native and invasive), therefore results can be used by marine planners with different goals: marine protected areas designation, monitoring efforts guiding, invasions risk assessment or aquaculture facilities zonation.
Using morphological and molecular evidence, we describe a new genus, Neochondria, based on specimens formerly identified as 'Chondria tenuissima' sensu Okamura in Japan. The generitype, Neochondria ammophila sp. nov., is not closely related to Chondria capillaris (Hudson) M.J. Wynne, the generitype of Chondria. The anatomy of Neochondria differs from that of Chondria by the development of adventitious elongate cells between the five major pericentral cells, forming densely compact layers surrounding the axial strand, even in the ultimate branchlets. We propose the new combination, Neochondria nidifica, based on Chondria nidifica Harvey from California, USA and Baja California, Mexico. Multigene analyses (rbcL, small subunit and cox1) and morphological observations demonstrated that N. ammophila and N. nidifica share a clade but preliminary results show that they may not belong in the tribe Chondrieae.
With over a thousand species, the Rhodomelaceae is the most species-rich family of red algae. While its genera have been assigned to 14 tribes, the high-level classification of the family has never been evaluated with a molecular phylogeny. Here, we reassess its classification by integrating genome-scale phylogenetic analysis with observations of the morphological characters of clades. In order to resolve relationships among the main lineages of the family we constructed a phylogeny with 55 chloroplast genomes (52 newly determined). The majority of branches were resolved with full bootstrap support. We then added 266 rbcL, 125 18S rRNA gene and 143 cox1 sequences to construct a comprehensive phylogeny containing nearly half of all known species in the family (407 species in 89 genera). These analyses suggest the same subdivision into higher-level lineages, but included many branches with moderate or poor support. The circumscription for nine of the 13 previously described tribes was supported, but the Lophothalieae, Polysiphonieae, Pterosiphonieae and Herposiphonieae required revision, and five new tribes and one resurrected tribe were segregated from them. Rhizoid anatomy is highlighted as a key diagnostic character for the morphological delineation of several lineages. This work provides the most extensive phylogenetic analysis of the Rhodomelaceae to date and successfully resolves the relationships among major clades of the family. Our data show that organellar genomes obtained through high-throughput sequencing produce well-resolved phylogenies of difficult groups, and their more general application in algal systematics will likely permit deciphering questions about classification at many taxonomic levels.