Ph.D. student names three new algae species in the Everglades

Sep 11, 2013 by Evelyn Perez
A view of a live M. calcarea sample through a light microscope.

Sylvia Lee never intended on finding, let alone naming, three new species of algae in the Florida Everglades.

Lee, a biological sciences Ph.D. student in FIU's Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) program, was looking at samples of diatoms, or , as part of her doctoral dissertation. Lee's dissertation focuses on how diatom communities in the Everglades have changed over time and space in response to water management and . Diatoms are unique due to the distinct ornamentation on their cell walls and the fact that the walls are made of silica, the main ingredient in sand and glass.

"The general plan for Everglades restoration is to change the quantity and timing of waterflow," Lee said. "Since diatoms are the first responders to environmental change – and because their populations are large and generate relatively quickly – they're great indicators of conditions in aquatic systems."

Discovery and naming

The first Lee named is Mastogloia calcarea, an algae that thrives in freshwater and is abundant in the Everglades and parts of Jamaica, Belize and Mexico. It had previously been identified as another species, Mastogloia smithii, in England in 1856. However, the cell traits – including length, width, shape and other features – did not fit the descriptions of M. smithii that is currently in taxonomic reference books.

The second species is Mastogloia pseudosmithii, a rare form of algae that prefers brackish, or salty, environments. This species had previously been confused as M. smithii do to its similar shape, however, Lee found that its shape and cell wall striation patterns do, in fact, differ.

The third species Lee named, by chance discovery, is Envekadea metzeltinii. Lee sent samples of M. pseudosmithii to a colleague, Bart Van de Vijver of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium, for 3D picture analysis. Van de Vijver found a new, unnamed species within the sample. Together, the two researchers named the species after Ditmar Metzeltin, a diatomist who had found and described the diatom in 2007 but never named it. This rare species thrives in saline environments and has been observed in similar wetlands in the Yucatan. It is unique in that the cell wall has a thin covering over the pores, thus distinguishing it from most other porous diatoms.

"It's important to have the correct name for each species, particularly when you want to make accurate comparisons of biodiversity found in different locations across the world," Lee said. "These global comparisons are what you use to answer questions about climate change and other large-scale phenomena.

"Also, as the environment changes and humans continue to impact the natural environment, it's always possible we might lose some of these species. So it's important to accurately document them before they're lost."

Algae produce 70-80 percent of the world's oxygen, remove carbon dioxide and are the base of the food web in aquatic systems. There are estimates of a million algae species on the planet, but only 30 percent of them have been described and named. In the Everglades, algae are studied to detect environmental changes due to pollution, water management projects, sea level rise and damage from storms.

"Not many students have the opportunity to name species during their degree program because it takes a long time and requires a great deal of connections with other taxonomists around the world," said Evelyn Gaiser, lead primary investigator of FCE LTER and Lee's major professor. "Naming a new species requires a deep understanding of the diversity of related species and an eye for difference. Sylvia is a special researcher for her deep-rooted love for algae and her commitment to her field through careful research and inspired training."

Lee's first two findings are reported in a paper, "Morphology and typification of Mastogloia smithii and Mastogloia lacustris," and will soon be published in the scientific journal, Diatom Research. The paper documenting Lee's the third finding is titled "Envekadea metzeltinii sp. Nov., a new species from subtropical karstic wetlands of the Florida Everglades," and has been published in the research journal, Phytotaxa.

Explore further: Pollution-fighting algae: Algae species holds potential for dual role as pollution reducer, biofuel source

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate Change Alters Base of Tahoe Food Web

Sep 29, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- UC Davis researchers at Lake Tahoe this week published the first evidence that climate change alters the makeup of tiny plant communities called algae, which are the very foundation of the ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...