Scientists from the IDEAL Center and the UMAG participated a study which used genetic analysis, and this has changed the way in which these organisms had historically been classified in this region.

Scientists from the IDEAL Center, Claudio González -Wevar and María Lare Guillermin, participated in the research.

The Drake Passage, considered one of the most dangerous in the world, is the stretch of ocean that separates South America from Antarctica. Throughout its history, the scientific community has described it as a biogeographical barrier that has also separated species and organisms, among them, seaweed (macroalgae), which are widely distributed in the Southern Ocean.

Despite the physical distance between the seaweed of South America and those of the White Continent, until now both groups were considered the same species. However, recent research has shown otherwise.

Researchers from the Center for the Dynamic Research of Marine Ecosystems of High Latitudes (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) and the University of Magallanes (UMAG) participated in a study published in “Journal of Applied Phycology”, which established that there are completely different evolutionary lineages of macroalgae (seaweed) in South America and Antarctica.

“Historical reports indicated that the species north and south of the Drake Passage were the same. We showed that in the case of these macroalgae (seaweed) this is not the case, because there is a separation that isolates South America from Antarctica. That is, there are different endemic species in each place,” explained IDEAL Center researcher, Dr. Claudio González -Wevar.

To determine if there was a generalized pattern, the researchers worked with three groups of macroalgae: green (Ulva), brown (Adenocystis) and red (Iridaea). In each of the species analyzed, the result was the same. The scientists acknowledged the presence of different lineages on each side of the Drake Passage. Likewise, the separation in all of the analyzed groups cannot be explained by plate tectonics or the physical separation of the continents, which occurred about 40 million years ago.

The researchers worked with three groups of seaweed (macroalgae): green (Ulva), brown (Adenocystis) and red (Iridaea).

“These data are based on analysis of tissue samples in the laboratory through molecular biology methodology, a tool that is rapidly transforming our understanding of seaweed diversity in the oceans of the world,” said IDEAL Center researcher, Dr. Marie-Laure Guillemin.

The research is part of the thesis project “Molecular divergence in macroalgae species co-distributed throughout the Magallanes region and the Antarctic Peninsula,” by the student Paula Ocaranza-Barrera, who belongs to the Master’s program for “Management and Conservation of Natural Resources in Sub-Antarctic Environments of the UMAG.”