[Science news] - Discovery of a new genus of green algae in the remote Pacific Ocean

Tue 22 Feb


  The Southern Line Islands in the central Pacific Ocean are some of the most remote islands on earth. Their coral reefs are considered some of the most pristine on the planet, although they are also experiencing the threat of climate change. Information on marine biodiversity from these remote islands is fragmented, and data on seaweed diversity is almost non-existent.

During two recent expeditions a conspicuous and common green alga was spotted that could not readily be assigned to any of the known species or genera. Morphological and molecular research indicated that the alga represented a new species and genus, which was dubbed Brilliantia kiribatiensis. The genus name refers to the bright color, and the species name refers to the island nation of Kiribati to which the Line Islands belong. The new species has a very simple morphology, consisting of unbranched filaments, and features a unique mode of cell division that is only found in one group of green algae, the Cladophorales.

The species appears to be restricted to the Southern Line Islands and some neighboring islands. The finding of a new endemic genus has consequences for marine biodiversity conservation in these remote coral reefs. It confirms previous reports highlighting the uniqueness of these ecosystems, underlining the need for more research and for the protection of these as yet pristine marine habitats, in particular in the light of climate change.


The pristine coral reefs of the Southern Line Islands harbour unique biodiversity.

Credit: Jennifer Smith

The new species and genus Brilliantia kiribatiensis with its simple morphology and typical bright green colour.

Credit: Jennifer Smith