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Open Access Research article

The Hawaiian Rhodophyta Biodiversity Survey (2006-2010): a summary of principal findings

Alison R Sherwood1*, Akira Kurihara12, Kimberly Y Conklin13, Thomas Sauvage1 and Gernot G Presting4

Author Affiliations

1 Botany Department, 3190 Maile Way, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI USA 96822

2 Kobe University Research Center for Inland Seas, 1-1 Rokkodai, Kobe 657-8501 Japan

3 Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, P.O. Box 1346, Kaneohe, HI USA 96744

4 Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, 1955 East-West Rd, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI USA 96822

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BMC Plant Biology 2010, 10:258  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-258

Published: 22 November 2010

Abstract

Background

The Hawaiian red algal flora is diverse, isolated, and well studied from a morphological and anatomical perspective, making it an excellent candidate for assessment using a combination of traditional taxonomic and molecular approaches. Acquiring and making these biodiversity data freely available in a timely manner ensures that other researchers can incorporate these baseline findings into phylogeographic studies of Hawaiian red algae or red algae found in other locations.

Results

A total of 1,946 accessions are represented in the collections from 305 different geographical locations in the Hawaiian archipelago. These accessions represent 24 orders, 49 families, 152 genera and 252 species/subspecific taxa of red algae. One order of red algae (the Rhodachlyales) was recognized in Hawaii for the first time and 196 new island distributional records were determined from the survey collections. One family and four genera are reported for the first time from Hawaii, and multiple species descriptions are in progress for newly discovered taxa. A total of 2,418 sequences were generated for Hawaiian red algae in the course of this study - 915 for the nuclear LSU marker, 864 for the plastidial UPA marker, and 639 for the mitochondrial COI marker. These baseline molecular data are presented as neighbor-joining trees to illustrate degrees of divergence within and among taxa. The LSU marker was typically most conserved, followed by UPA and COI. Phylogenetic analysis of a set of concatenated LSU, UPA and COI sequences recovered a tree that broadly resembled the current understanding of florideophyte red algal relationships, but bootstrap support was largely absent above the ordinal level. Phylogeographic trends are reported here for some common taxa within the Hawaiian Islands and include examples of those with, as well as without, intraspecific variation.

Conclusions

The UPA and COI markers were determined to be the most useful of the three and are recommended for inclusion in future algal biodiversity surveys. Molecular data for the survey provide the most extensive assessment of Hawaiian red algal diversity and, in combination with the morphological/anatomical and distributional data collected as part of the project, provide a solid baseline data set for future studies of the flora. The data are freely available via the Hawaiian Algal Database (HADB), which was designed and constructed to accommodate the results of the project. We present the first DNA sequence reference collection for a tropical Pacific seaweed flora, whose value extends beyond Hawaii since many Hawaiian taxa are shared with other tropical areas.