Lessonia nigrescens used to be an abundant kelp species along the Chilean coast, but recent molecular studies revealed the existence of a L. nigrescens species complex, which includes the two cryptic species Lessonia berteroana and Lessonia spicata. Since these species have different distributions (16°S–30°S for L. berteroana and 29°S–42°S for L. spicata), they experience differences in environmental conditions, such as solar irradiance, seawater temperature and air exposure during low tide. This study tested to what extent the genetic distinctness of each of the two species [identified by a mitochondrial marker (atp8/trnS)] is reflected by ecophysiological traits (total lipids, fatty acid composition, phlorotannins, pigments and variable chlorophyll a fluorescence of PSII) in response to the respective environmental conditions, prevailing along the latitudinal gradient. We studied algal individuals from eight populations (27°S–32°S, including the species overlapping zone). Phlorotannins, pigments and Chl a fluorescence of PSII were most crucial for species-specific adaptations at the respective growth sites, whereas changes in total lipids and fatty acid compositions were negligible. Hence, species differentiation within the L. nigrescens complex is also manifested at the ecophysiological level. These findings may help to predict kelp responses towards future environmental changes.
About the authors
Kristina Koch (right) obtained her BS in Biology and her MS in Marine Biology from the University of Bremen, Germany. Currently, she is doing her PhD in the working group Marine Botany of Prof. Dr. Kai Bischof at the same university. Her research focusses on interactive effects of irradiance and temperature on macroalgal ecophysiology, particularly membrane lipid composition.
Martin Thiel is Professor of Marine Biology at Universidad Católica del Norte in Coquimbo, Chile, with broad interests in diverse aspects of marine biology, including behavioral ecology, rafting dispersal and biogeography. Together with his students, collaborators and friends, he is directing the research network “Cientificos de la Basura” (Litter Scientists), in which school kids from all over Chile investigate the problem of marine litter, in a quest to identify causes and find solutions (www.cientificosdelabasura.cl).
Florence Tellier obtained her PhD in 2009 from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC-Paris VI) and from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile under a joined PhD program. She had a postdoctoral position at the Universidad Católica del Norte in Coquimbo, Chile before becoming an Assistant Professor at the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción in Concepción, Chile in 2011. Her research interests include speciation, dispersal and adaptation in marine macroalgae.
Wilhelm Hagen graduated in the field of Marine Biology at the University of Kiel (Germany) and conducted his PhD research at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven (Germany) in close association with the Polar Ecology Institute at Kiel University, where he received his PhD. After a postdoctoral fellowship (National Science Foundation) at the Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida in Saint Petersburg (USA), he returned to the Polar Ecology Institute in Kiel and completed a postdoctoral thesis (“Habilitation”) at the university. In 1998 he became Professor for Marine Zoology at the University of Bremen (Germany). His research focusses on the ecophysiology (energetics, trophic markers) and ecology of marine organisms, mainly zooplankton and nekton.
Martin Graeve is currently head of the Marine Chemistry laboratory at Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Bremerhaven. He did his education at Fachhochschule Münster, University of Bremen, and received his PhD in Chemistry in 1992. After being a post-doc at the Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Warnemünde (1992–1997), he began a permanent position at AWI in 2001. His research interests are structure and function of marine lipids, energy flow in the marine food web and analytical chemistry.
Fadia Tala obtained her degree in Marine Biology and her MS from the Universidad Católica del Norte (Chile). She continues her research at the same university, including research into brown macroalgal reproduction and ecophysiology as response to abiotic and biotic stress under benthic and rafting condition. She also works on management and culture techniques in seaweeds. Her PhD in Botany was obtained at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2013. At present she is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for Research and Technological Development in Algae (CIDTA-UCN) at the Faculty of Marine Science (UCN).
Philipp Laeseke obtained his BS in Biology at the University of Bremen in 2013. He is now a student in the Marine Biology Master program at the same university. During both programs he focused on the ecology and physiology of marine algae.
Kai Bischof (left) graduated in the field of Biology at the University of Osnabrück (Germany) and conducted his PhD research at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven (Germany). After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), he obtained the position of Assistant Professor at the Institute for Polar Ecology at the University of Kiel (Germany). In 2006 he became a Professor of Marine Botany at the University of Bremen (Germany). His research comprises all aspects of seaweed ecophysiology.
Funding of this study was provided by the FONDECYT grant 1100749 to M. Thiel and F. Tala, by the INICIACIÓN grant 11121504 to F. Tellier and by the University of Bremen (internal funding). We would like to thank the members of the BEDIM laboratory (UCN) for their help in the field. Furthermore, we are grateful to Britta Meyer-Schlosser for technical support in pigment analysis (HPLC), to Dr. Anna Schukat for competent assistance with the lipid evaluations, to Natalia Valderrama for species identification and to Oscar Pino for preparation of Figure 1.
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