Microbial Ecology

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 549–561 | Cite as

Phenotypically Different Microalgal Morphospecies with Identical Ribosomal DNA: A Case of Rapid Adaptive Evolution?

  • Ramiro LogaresEmail author
  • Karin Rengefors
  • Anke Kremp
  • Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi
  • Andrés Boltovskoy
  • Torstein Tengs
  • Aaron Shurtleff
  • Dag Klaveness


The agents driving the divergence and speciation of free-living microbial populations are still largely unknown. We investigated the dinoflagellate morphospecies Scrippsiella hangoei and Peridinium aciculiferum, which abound in the Baltic Sea and in northern temperate lakes, respectively. Electron microscopy analyses showed significant interspecific differences in the external cellular morphology, but a similar plate pattern in the characteristic dinoflagellate armor. Experimentally, S. hangoei grew in a wide range of salinities (0–30), whereas P. aciculiferum only grew in low salinities (0–3). Despite these phenotypic differences and the habitat segregation, molecular analyses showed identical ribosomal DNA sequences (ITS1, ITS2, 5.8S, SSU, and partial LSU) for both morphospecies. Yet, a strong interspecific genetic isolation was indicated by amplified fragment length polymorphism (F ST = 0.76) and cytochrome b (cob) sequence divergence (∼1.90%). Phylogenetic reconstructions based on ribosomal (SSU, LSU) and mitochondrial (cob) DNA indicated a recent marine ancestor for P. aciculiferum. In conclusion, we suggest that the lacustrine P. aciculiferum and the marine-brackish S. hangoei diverged very recently, after a marine–freshwater transition that exposed the ancestral populations to different selective pressures. This hypothetical scenario agrees with mounting data indicating a significant role of natural selection in the divergence of free-living microbes, despite their virtually unrestricted dispersal capabilities. Finally, our results indicate that identical ITS rDNA sequences do not necessarily imply the same microbial species, as commonly assumed.


Internal Transcribe Space Amplify Fragment Length Polymorphism Dinoflagellate Prorocentrum Minimum Plate Pattern 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The Swedish Research Council and the SEED project contract, GOCE-CT-2005-003875 (European Commission Directorate General Research), financed this study. We thank S. Bensch for his assistance with AFLP analyses and J. Pérez-Tris for comments on early versions of the manuscript. Dr. C. Luxoro is thanked for methodological help during the initial phase of this work and T. Rolfsen (UiO) for assistance with SEM. Preliminary parts of this work were carried out in D. Anderson's laboratory at Woods Hole. Special thanks to the three anonymous reviewers who have helped to improve this manuscript. Phylogenies were computed in the University of Oslo Bioportal, (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramiro Logares
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karin Rengefors
    • 1
  • Anke Kremp
    • 2
  • Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi
    • 3
  • Andrés Boltovskoy
    • 4
  • Torstein Tengs
    • 5
  • Aaron Shurtleff
    • 6
  • Dag Klaveness
    • 7
  1. 1.Limnology Division, Ecology DepartmentLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.Tvärminne Zoological StationUniversity of HelsinkiHankoFinland
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  4. 4.Departamento Científico FicologíaPaseo del Bosque s/n°, Museo de La PlataLa PlataArgentina
  5. 5.National Veterinary Institute, Section of Food and Feed MicrobiologyOsloNorway
  6. 6.FWC, Fish & Wildlife Research InstituteSt. PetersburgUSA
  7. 7.Department of Biology, Section LimnologyUniversity of OsloBlindern, OsloNorway

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