Biogeographic origin of the chlorophyte Caulerpa prolifera in Ria Formosa (Portugal) and its proliferation potential in a future warmer ocean

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
The chlorophyte Caulerpa prolifera is a fast growing macroalga widely distributed along the Mediterranean and the Atlantic with high proliferation potential. This project aims to combine genetic and physiological tools to understand the role that the genetic origin plays on the physiological responses of C. prolifera to temperature, in order to preview the species proliferation potential under global warming. Large subtidal meadows of C. prolifera have recently developed in Ria Formosa (Portugal), even though the first citation of this species in Ria Formosa dates back to the 19th century. Molecular markers will be used to investigate the genetic identity of this strain and its biogeographic origin, in comparison with a strain that was described earlier from another location in Ria Formosa. Temperature strongly affects metabolic rates of C. prolifera and inhibition of photosynthesis have been described at high temperature (>30ºC). In the context of global warming, increases in seawater temperature may affect differently strains of C. prolifera locally adapted to different temperatures. Physiological responses of Ria Formosa strains to temperature will be compared to Mediterranean and Atlantic strains. The comparison of different populations of C. prolifera naturally growing in a range of temperatures, from warmer (Mediterranean) to colder (Atlantic) locations, will provide insights on the correspondence between genetic diversity and the species response to global warming.
- Interest in genetics and physiology - Diving License - Diving experience
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Other people involved: 
-Dr. Elena Varela Álvarez -Prof. Ester Serrão -Prof. Rui Santos
Reference Number: RP-49021