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Durham University

Department of Biosciences


Publication details for Dr. Brian A. Whitton

Jones, Leandro R., Manrique, Julieta M., Uyua, Noelia M. & Whitton, Brian A. (2019). Genetic analysis of the invasive alga Didymosphenia geminata in Southern Argentina: Evidence of a Pleistocene origin of local lineages. Scientific Reports 9(1): 18706.

Author(s) from Durham


The diatom Didymosphenia geminata has gained notoriety due to the massive growths which have occurred in recent decades in temperate regions. Different explanations have been proposed for this phenomenon, including the emergence of new invasive strains, human dispersion and climate change. Despite the fact in Argentina nuisance growths began in about 2010, historical records suggest that the alga was already present before that date. In addition, preliminary genetic data revealed too high a diversity to be explained by a recent invasion. Here, we estimate the divergence times of strains from southern Argentina. We integrate new genetic data and secondary, fossil and geological calibrations into a Penalized Likelihood model used to infer 18,630 plausible chronograms. These indicate that radiation of the lineages in Argentina began during or before the Pleistocene, which is hard to reconcile with the hypothesis that a new variant is responsible for the local mass growths. Instead, this suggests that important features of present distribution could be the result of multiple recent colonizations or the expansion of formerly rare populations. The text explains how these two possibilities are compatible with the hypothesis that recent nuisance blooms may be a consequence of climate change.