A forensic and phylogenetic survey of Caulerpa species (Caulerpales, Chlorophyta) from the Florida coast, local aquarium shops, and e-commerce: Establishing a proactive baseline for early detection

W.T. Stam, J.L. Olsen, S.F. Zaleski, S.N. Murray, K.R. Brown, L.J. Walters

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    Baseline genotypes were established for 256 individuals of Caulerpa collected from 27 field locations in Florida (including the Keys), the Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, and Honduras, nearly doubling the number of available GenBank sequences. On the basis of sequences from the nuclear rDNA-ITS 1+2 and the chloroplast tufA regions, the phylogeny of Caulerpa was reassessed and the presence of invasive strains was determined. Surveys in central Florida and southern California of > 100 saltwater aquarium shops and 90 internet sites revealed that > 50% sold Caulerpa. Of the 14 Caulerpa species encountered, Caulerpa racemosa was the most common, followed by Caulerpa sertularioides, Caulerpa prolifera, Caulerpa mexicana, and Caulerpa serrulata. None of the > 180 field-collected individuals (representing 13 species) was the invasive strain of Caulerpa taxifolia or C. racemosa. With one exception (a sample of C. racemosa from a shop in southern California belonged to the invasive Clade III strain), no invasive strains were found in saltwater aquarium stores in Florida or on any of the internet sites. Although these results are encouraging, we recommend a ban on the sale of all Caulerpa species (including "live rock") because: morphological identification of Caulerpa species is unreliable (> 12% misidentification rate) and invasive strains can only be identified by their aligned DNA sequences, and because the potential capacity for invasive behavior in other Caulerpa species is far from clear. The addition of the Florida region to the genetic data base for Caulerpa provides a valuable proactive resource for invasion biologists as well as researchers interested in the evolution and speciation of Caulerpa.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1113-1124
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Phycology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct-2006


    • aquarium trade
    • Caulerpa
    • e-commerce
    • invasive species
    • ITS
    • marine conservation
    • phylogeny
    • tufA
    • RDNA ITS1
    • ALGA
    • ORIGIN

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