Gulf Of California Coral Algae Consists Of Five Unique Species: Study
January 1, 2014

Gulf Of California Coral Algae Consists Of Five Unique Species: Study

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

New research from Jazmin Hernandez Kantun, a marine biologist at the Autonomous University of South Baja California (UABCS), has led to the discovery that the most abundant coral algae in the Gulf of California in Mexico, is actually a compound of five different species. This discovery changes how the species known as Lithophyllum margaritae is represented.

Kantun's research is being continued at Ireland’s National University with help from the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology. The purpose of her research is to now determine the number of coral algae species in Europe and Mexico through molecular testing.

Kantun said, “Coral algae in Mexico and trough out [sic] the world are usually identified only by their shape and color. However, is necessary to investigate the species in depth, given that bigger biodiversity exists in this organism than previously thought.”

Since 1992, the Habitats Directive of the European Union has protected two species of algae -- Lithothamnion corallioides and Phymatolithon calcareum. These two species of algae are considered to be the most abundant and important in the marine ecosystem. They are also used as a rich mineral fertilizer.

Two other species, L. glaciale and L. tophiforme, should also be protected according to Kantun because they share the same characteristics.

The importance of the coral algae is that when they are detached during the tides, they assemble in specific areas and form coral-like growths that are rich in calcium and are used by corals, clams, larvae and mollusks to start their development.

However, the increase of carbon dioxide being absorbed into these growths is changing the natural chemistry of the ocean ecosystem, modifying its pH levels. This change could remove these algal  growths from the ecosystem, directly affecting the organisms that use them.

Kantun believes that the effect of climate change is different for each species. “A lot of research is missing in this field, we haven’t quite understood the diversity of this algae, is like saying that all dogs are alike when each breed has different genetics and response to environmental factors. Is not the same to protect one than five different species! [sic]” she stated.

Kantun plans to return to Mexico and start a laboratory to continue her research to help the conservation of this marine organism.