Tracing back the source of a species introduction within the Mediterranean: Dictyota cyanoloma

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
The Mediterranean is a melting pot of exotic – invasive seaweed species, introduced by different vectors (mariculture, aquarium trade, maritime transport, Lessepian migration and fishing). The most notorious exotic is Caulerpa taxifolia, nicknamed the “killer alga”. Within this master project, we would like to add another exotic and possibly invasive species to the growing list: Dictyota cyanoloma. Dictyota cyanoloma was first described as a recent introduction to the western Mediterranean (Lluch et al., 2007) and Macaronesia (Tronholm et al., 2009). Further attention on this species indicated that it is more widely distributed within Europe than previously known, and that it is originally from Australia. The most surprising finding was that its introduction was not very recent, but has remained unrecognized for quite a while. Some Croatian herbarium specimens from as early as 1935 has been identified as genuine D. cyanoloma. Within this project we aim to further elaborate the introduction history of D. cyanoloma by combining fieldwork, lab experiments and molecular tools. Field work will be conducted within the region of its presumed introduction (Croatia). Microsatellite markers will be amplified to trace back the source region and the directionality of the spread within the Mediterranean. Niche models will be constructed to assess its fundamental versus its realized niche and to make predictions about possible future expansions. Culture experiments will be conducted on different strains (Australian versus Mediterranean) to test their thermal tolerances and the effect of nutrient addition on species growth. This data will be incorporated within the niche predictions.
basic knowledge molecular biology; interest invasive species biology
Number of students: 
academic year: 
Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
Olivier De Clerck
Other people involved: 
Frederic Mineur (Queen's University Belfast)
Reference Number: RP-36262