Distribution and Evolution of Non-Coralline Crustose Red Algae in the North Atlantic

  • Christine A. Maggs
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 22)


The non-coralline (fleshy) red algal crusts of the North Atlantic are taxonomically diverse. They comprise approximately equal numbers of species with isomorphic or apomictic life histories, and those which are life-history phases of erect algae. The isomorphic crusts, in particular, are of biogeographic interest because their distributional patterns are generally not obscured by recent man-mediated events.

Seven crustose genera lacking an erect life-history phase occur in the North Atlantic: Rhodophysema and Rhodophysemopsis (Rhodophysemataceae; Hildenbrandia (Hildenbrandiaceae); Cruoria (Cruoriaceae): Haemescharia (Haemeschariaceae); Plagiospora (?Gloiosiphoniaceae); and Peyssonnelia (Peyssonneliaceae). In the Rhodophysemataceae, greater morphological diversity in the North Pacific, relative to the North Atlantic, is consistent with a North Pacific origin. Members of the Hildenbrandiaceae, which exhibit unique morphological features, occur in temperate waters of both hemispheres, reflecting their ancient origins. The Cruoriaceae, and the possibly related Haemeschariaceae, are endemic, to the North Atlantic and North Atlantic-Arctic Ocean, respectively. Plagiospora, a monotypic genus of uncertain affinities, is an amphi-North Atlantic endemic. Peyssonnelia, the largest genus, is of Tehyan origin. The high species diversity seen in the tropics and the Mediterranean decreases northwards on both sides of the the Atlantic. The only species presently in subarctic regions, P. rosenvingii, does not appear to be closely related to either the tropical or Mediterranean Peyssonnelia species. Instead, P. rosenvingii resembles NE Pacific species such as P. pacifica, and may have entered the North Atlantic via the Bering Strait during a relatively warm period. It reproduces only by monosporangia, perhaps because sexual reproduction was lost during migration through an unfavourable environment.

Algae with crustose life-history phases are represented in the North Atlantic by members of eleven families in three orders. Atractophora (Naccariaceae) is monotypic and known only from a small area of the NE Atlantic. Ahnfeltia (Ahnfeltiaceae) is circumpolar in both hemispheres, but this may result from relatively recent dispersal as South American material of A. plicata cannot be distinguished from northern hemisphere plants. Plastid DNA analysis in Gymnogongrus (Phyllophoraceae) has linked the two uncoupled life-history phases of an unidentified species that occurs in New England, Nova Scotia, and Northern Ireland, and it may assist in determining origins.


British Isle North Atlantic Ocean Benthic Marine Alga Vegetative Anatomy Crustose Alga 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine A. Maggs
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, School of Biology and BiochemistryThe Queen’s University of BelfastBelfastNorthern Ireland

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