Molecular systematics reveals increased diversity within the South African Laurencia complex (Rhodomelaceae, Rhodophyta)

Caitlynne Francis, John J. Bolton, Lydiane Mattio, Tshifhiwa G. Mandiwana-Neudani, Robert J. Anderson

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Previous publications list ten species in the Laurencia complex from South Africa with all ascribed to the genus Laurencia sensu stricto. However, the diversity of the complex in South Africa has not yet been re-assessed following the numerous recent taxonomic changes. This study investigated the phylogenetic relationships and taxonomy of this group in South Africa using recent collections. Methods included molecular phylogenetic analyses of plastid rbcL gene sequences (a total of 146; including eleven outgroup taxa) using Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian Inference, and the examination of morphological and anatomical characters, including the number of corps en cerise when present. The seven genera of the Laurencia complex formed monophyletic clades with high posterior probabilities. Seventeen morphotypes were identified: 14 in the genus Laurencia sensu stricto, among which eight corresponded to Laurencia species currently recognized from South Africa and one each to species of Palisada, Chondrophycus, and Laurenciella. The six remaining morphotypes in Laurencia sensu stricto did not match any descriptions and are described here as five new species: Laurencia alfredensis sp. nov., Laurencia dichotoma sp. nov., Laurencia digitata sp. nov., Laurencia multiclavata sp. nov. and Laurencia sodwaniensis sp. nov. and a new variety: Laurencia pumila var. dehoopiensis var. nov. Laurencia stegengae nom. nov. is established to replace Laurencia peninsularis Stegenga, Bolton and Anderson nom. illeg. The diversity is likely greater, with six additional unidentified specimens found in this molecular investigation. These findings place South Africa alongside Australia in having one of the most diverse floras of this group in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804-819
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


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