Molecular evidence for three separate cryptic introductions of the red seaweed Asparagopsis (Bonnemaisoniales, Rhodophyta) in South Africa

  • JJ Bolton
  • N Andreakis
  • RJ Anderson


The red seaweed genus Asparagopsis Montagne (Bonnemaisoniales) contains two widely introduced species that are considered notorious seaweed invaders worldwide, Asparagopsis armata and A. taxiformis, both characterised by heteromorphic, diplo-haplontic life histories. To uncover cryptic introductions of Asparagopsis along the South African coastline and identify ‘Falkenbergia’ isolates (i.e. tetrasporophytic life-history phase morphologically identical between species), the mitochondrial cox2–3 spacer was sequenced from gametophytes of Asparagopsis taxiformis from Scottburgh, KwaZulu-Natal, on the East Coast, Knysna Lagoon on the South Coast and from tetrasporophytes, otherwise unidentifiable to species level, collected from False Bay near Cape Town on the South-West Coast and Tsitsikamma on the South Coast. Only tetrasporophytes of the temperate Asparagopsis armata were encountered from the Cape Peninsula (Cape Town) probably as far east as to Port St Johns, Eastern Cape province. This is considered an introduced species, and was first collected at Kommetjie (Cape Peninsula) in 1935. Gametophytes of the warm-temperate to tropical A. taxiformis were first collected at Reunion Rocks near Durban in 1984; the KwaZulu-Natal material studied here belongs to an Atlantic Mediterranean cryptic lineage. This taxon is an ecological dominant in some intertidal and shallow subtidal areas in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and is thus considered ‘introduced’ and ‘invasive’. In contrast, A. taxiformis gametophytes, collected in Knysna Lagoon in 2008, clustered with individuals of Indo-Pacific lineage 2. The latter is considered a major invasive lineage in the western Mediterranean, but at present is categorised as introduced in South Africa. This study provides molecular evidence of three independent, cryptic introductions in South Africa, one of them probably very recent, and this is discussed with respect to potential vectors responsible for transport.

Keywords: Bonnemaisoniaceae, cryptogenic, introduced, invasive, seaweed

African Journal of Marine Science 2011, 33(2): 263–271

Author Biographies

JJ Bolton
Botany Department and Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
N Andreakis
Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB no. 3, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia
RJ Anderson
Botany Department and Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa;  Seaweed Unit, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Private Bag X2, Rogge Bay 8012, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X