A barcode analysis of the genus Lobophora (Dictyotales, Phaeophyceae) in the western Atlantic Ocean with four novel species and the epitypification of L. variegata (J.V. Lamouroux) E.C. Oliveira

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In the western Atlantic Ocean, the brown algal genus Lobophora is currently represented by a single species, L. variegata, with a type locality designated by Lamouroux as ‘Antilles’. In this study, we used molecular-assisted alpha taxonomy (MAAT) to assess species diversity of Lobophora in Bermuda, the Florida Keys, St. Croix and Guadeloupe (Lesser Antilles). Using cox1 and cox3 sequences as barcode markers, five species of Lobophora, four of them novel, were delineated, all previously having been identified in the area as L. variegata. Our morphological and habitat studies, made possible by abundant sampling, have revealed unique characters for each of these western Atlantic species, including distinct cellular arrangements, as well as different depth ranges for certain species. Observations made from Lamouroux’s holotype of Dictyota variegata (= Lobophora variegata) allowed us to assess the anatomy of this species, which enabled us to easily align this early taxon to one of our genetic species from the western Atlantic. As the type was unavailable for genetic analysis, we selected a recent St. Croix (Virgin Is., Antilles) specimen as the epitype to support it with molecular sequence data.

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European Journal of Phycology