Evolutionary Phycology: Toward a Macroalgal Species Conceptual Framework

Academic Article


  • Species concepts formalize evolutionary and ecological processes, but often conflict with one another when considering the mechanisms that ultimately lead to species delimitation. Evolutionary biologists are, however, recognizing that the conceptualization of a species is separate and distinct from the delimitation of species. Indeed, if species are generally defined as separately evolving metapopulation lineages, then characteristics, such as reproductive isolation or monophyly, can be used as evidence of lineage separation and no longer conflict with the conceptualization of a species. However, little of this discussion has addressed the formalization of this evolutionary conceptual framework for macroalgal species. This may be due to the complexity and variation found in macroalgal life cycles. While macroalgal mating system variation and patterns of hybridization and introgression have been identified, complex algal life cycles generate unique eco-evolutionary consequences. Moreover, the discovery of frequent macroalgal cryptic speciation has not been accompanied by the study of the evolutionary ecology of those lineages, and, thus, an understanding of the mechanisms underlying such rampant speciation remain elusive. In this perspective, we aim to further the discussion and interest in species concepts and speciation processes in macroalgae. We propose a conceptual framework to enable phycological researchers and students alike to portray these processes in a manner consistent with dialogue at the forefront of evolutionary biology. We define a macroalgal species as an independently evolving metapopulation lineage, whereby we can test for reproductive isolation or the occupation of distinct adaptive zones, among other mechanisms, as secondary lines of supporting evidence.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • McCoy SJ; Krueger-Hadfield SA; Mieszkowska N
  • Start Page

  • 1404
  • End Page

  • 1413
  • Volume

  • 56
  • Issue

  • 6