, Volume 18, Issue 3-5, pp 637-641
Date: 08 Jul 2006

Biogeography of Alaskan seaweeds

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A recent survey of seaweed specimens collected in Alaska over the past two centuries, together with the application of molecular techniques to recent collections, has revealed a surprisingly diverse flora given the history of glaciation, large areas of unsuitable habitat, and otherwise harsh environmental conditions. The number of recognized species has increased from 376 in 1977 to about 550 today. Species show a variety of biogeographic patterns: species that occur primarily to the south and have their northern limit in Alaska, species that occur primarily to the west and have their eastern limit in Alaska, species that are primarily Atlantic but extend through the Arctic to Alaska, and a number of endemics. Within these broad distribution patterns are more localized patterns often involving disjunctions. These disjunctions, the occurrence of endemic species, patterns of genotype distributions, and the overall richness of the seaweed flora support the idea that marine refugia must have existed in Alaska during Pleistocene glaciations.