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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2002 Jul;24(1):121-38.

Molecular systematics, historical ecology, and phylogeography of Halimeda (Bryopsidales).

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  • 1Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Box 2072, Balboa, Panama.


Halimeda (Bryopsidales), a genus of calcified, segmented green seaweeds, abounds in reefs and lagoons throughout the tropics. To investigate phylogenetic, phylogeographic, and historic ecological relationships of the genus, the nuclear rDNA including the SSU and both ITS regions were sequenced. A maximum likelihood tree revealed the following: (1) there were anatomical and morphological synapomorphies for five well-supported lineages; (2) the last common ancestor of one lineage invaded sandy substrata; those of two other lineages established in wave-affected habitats, whereas the cenancestor of the remaining two lineages occupied sheltered rocky slopes. Yet, several species adapted to new habitats subsequently, resulting in several cases of convergence; (3) all lineages separated into Atlantic and Indo-Pacific daughters, likely resulting from the rise of the Panamanian Isthmus. Each daughter pair gave rise to additional convergent species in similar habitats in different oceans; (4) Halimeda opuntia, the only monophyletic pantropical species detected so far, dispersed from the Indo-Pacific into the Atlantic well after the closure event; (5) minor SSU-sequence differences across species and phylogeographic patterns of vicariance indicated a relatively recent diversification of the extant diversity. Cretaceous and Early Tertiary fossil look-alikes of modern species must then have resulted from iterative convergence.

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