Formal revision of the alexandrium tamarense species complex (dinophyceae) taxonomy: The introduction of five species with emphasis on molecular-based (rDNA) classification

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Journal Article
Protist, 2014, 165 (6), pp. 779 - 804
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© 2014 Elsevier GmbH. The Alexandrium tamarense species complex is one of the most studied marine dinoflagellate groups due to its ecological, toxicological and economic importance. Several members of this complex produce saxitoxin and its congeners - potent neurotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. Isolates from this complex are assigned to A. tamarense, A. fundyense, or A. catenella based on two main morphological characters: the ability to form chains and the presence/absence of a ventral pore between Plates 1' and 4'. However, studies have shown that these characters are not consistent and/or distinctive. Further, phylogenies based on multiple regions in the rDNA operon indicate that the sequences from morphologically indistinguishable isolates partition into five clades. These clades were initially named based on their presumed geographic distribution, but recently were renamed as Groups I-V following the discovery of sympatry among some groups. In this study we present data on morphology, ITS/5.8S genetic distances, ITS2 compensatory base changes, mating incompatibilities, toxicity, the sxtA toxin synthesis gene, and rDNA phylogenies. All results were consistent with each group representing a distinct cryptic species. Accordingly, the groups were assigned species names as follows: Group I, A. fundyense; Group II, A. mediterraneum; Group III, A. tamarense; Group IV, A. pacificum; Group V, A. australiense.
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