Thanks to the work carried out at the molecular level in the regions of Los Lagos and Magallanes, the idea that the extreme south of our country is an area with a high number of organisms (several of them being endemic,) is reinforced.
Daniela Jofré, IDEAL Center. The red algae Plocamium, with the appearance of a small corral, has a wide distribution in the seas of the planet. It includes a total of 45 species, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, being an organism of important relevance due to its use in the production of bioproducts, since it has anticancer molecules and herbicidal properties.
In Chile, this organism inhabits most of the Chilean coasts. However, the diversity records in Plocamium -based solely on its morphology- are not very clear, so a group of scientists, led by researcher Alejandro Montecinos, from the Institute of Environmental and Evolutionary Sciences (ICAEV) of the Austral University de Chile (UACh) was dedicated to evaluating the diversity of this genus in the south of the country at the genetic level.
The diversity of this species was evaluated using molecular tools in samples collected from seven localities, located between the Los Lagos Region and the Beagle Channel, in the Magallanes Region. Thanks to this work, the presence of three species of Plocamium in Chilean Patagonia could currently be verified.
The species have been provisionally named as Plocamium sp.1, sp2. and sp. 3. It is not the first time that the subantarctic waters of Chile are highly diverse for algae, so the work reinforces the idea that the extreme south of our country is an area with a high number of species, also presenting a high degree of endemism.
In the case of Plocamium, “the surprise was to find two species together in the cold-water channels of the Magallanes Region (Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.) Our hypothesis is that the ancestor of Chilean algae arrived a few million years ago from the area of Australia and New Zealand, beginning its diversification process in Chile, differentiating itself from its origins,” comments Dr. Marie-Laure Guillemin, director of ICAEV and researcher at the Center for Dynamic Research on High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the UACh, who participates in the study.
“We do not know how the speciation process was generated in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, but we think that small groups of algae could have been ‘trapped’ in isolated ice-free sites during the last ice age, thus diverging into various species. In Chile, the impact of glaciations has been tremendous in the extreme south and the last glaciation took place only about 20,000 years ago,” explains Guillemin.
The research, published in the scientific journal Cryptogamie Algologie, allows a greater understanding of the diversity and evolutionary history of this genus, which has significant potential at the productive level.