Jackson Estuarine Laboratory


Cryptic diversity of Ulva (Ulvales, Chlorophyta) in the Northwest Atlantic: Introduced and indigenous distromatic species


Distromatic foliose blades of the algal genus Ulva are notoriously difficult to identify due to their simple morphologies and few diagnostic characteristics that often exhibit intraspecific variation and interspecific overlap. Hence, species differentiation is difficult and diversity estimates are often inaccurate. Two major goals of this study were to assess the diversity of distromatic Ulva spp. in the Great Bay Estuarine System (GBES) of New Hampshire and Maine, USA, and to compare historical and present day records of these species. Molecular analysis (using ITS sequences) of field-collected specimens revealed four distinct taxa: Ulva lactuca, U. rigida, U. compressa, and U. pertusa. Prior to molecular screening, Ulva lactuca was the only distromatic Ulva species reported for the GBES. Ulva pertusa and the foliose form of U. compressa are newly recorded for the Northwest Atlantic, and the range of U. rigida has been extended. Molecular analysis of historical herbarium voucher specimens indicates that U. rigida, U. pertusa, and the foliose form of U. compressa have been present in the GBES since at least 1966, 1967, and 1972, respectively. The distromatic morphotype of U. compressa is found only in low salinity areas, which suggests that salinity may influence its morphological development. Molecular and morphological evaluations are critical if we are to distinguish between cryptic taxa, accurately assess biodiversity, and effectively monitor the spread of non-indigenous macroalgae.

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European Journal of Phycology


Taylor & Francis

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