UNH graduate students Lindsay Green and Hannah Traggis discovered the rapid southern expansion of Colpomenia peregrina, also known as sea potato or oyster thief, during a SCUBA diving trip in Kittery, Maine, in the summer of 2011. “We saw this big brown beach ball,” says Traggis, who co-authored a study of their findings in the journal Botanica Marina.
The seaweed was documented in Nova Scotia in the 1960s but never on the U.S. Atlantic coast until Green and Traggis’s diving trip in 2011. In the paper, the authors explain that when they reevaluated photographs sent from concerned individuals in mid-coastal Maine, they confirmed that the seaweed had appeared there in 2010. In the summer of 2012, the sea potato had spread as far south as Sandwich, Mass., on the north shore of Cape Cod.
“It’s just blown up,” says Green, a Ph.D. student from Piermont. “It’s expanded all the way to the Cape in just two years.” While C. peregrina prefers cooler waters, the researchers anticipate that it could extend its range farther south.
Ranging in size from just a few centimeters to the size of a soccer ball, the sea potato is a greenish to yellowish brown sac that fills with air or water. It is epiphytic – it grows on other plants – and it’s quickly become prominent in the rocky intertidal zone of the Gulf of Maine attached to common seaweeds like rockweed or Corallina officinalis, also known as coral weed.
Colpomenia peregrina looks strikingly similar to a native species, Leathesia marina, or sea cauliflower. Sea potato, however, is smoother, thinner and greenish-light brown while sea cauliflower tends to be smaller, stiffer, brain-like and dark brown; the researchers turned to microscopy and DNA analysis to make a definitive identification.
Traggis and Green are quick to characterize the sea potato as an introduced, not invasive, species in New England waters. Nonetheless, its rapid expansion into the Gulf of Maine raises concern. The seaweed earned its “oyster thief” nickname after its introduction to France in the early 1900s led to significant damage to the oyster industry.
“The seaweed was like a balloon attached to the oysters. Literally, whole oyster beds disappeared because they floated away,” says Traggis, a master’s student from Buzzards Bay, Mass. While no negative effects have been reported on New England’s shellfish industry, the researchers note that the region’s oyster industry is valued at $117.6 million.
The researchers and other scientists are keeping a close eye on C. peregrina for other ways it could alter the natural community and native flora. “It occurs in high density on many local seaweeds, and it’s competing with them for space, nutrients and light,” says Green. “In the summer it’s becoming a bit of a nuisance.”
As the warming days bring more people to New England’s shoreline, “we want people to know that this is here and that there are researchers interested in learning about it,” says Green, adding that while there’s no need for citizens to eradicate the sea potato if they find it, they shouldn’t move it around. They encourage beachcombers – the natural beach balls are likely to attract the curiosity of kids in particular – to contact the Department of Marine Resources (Maine: http://www.maine.gov/dmr/index.htm; New Hampshire: http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/marine/; Massachusetts: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dmf/) when they find C. peregrina.
The paper, “Southern expansion of the brown alga Colpomenia peregrina Sauvageau (Scytosiphonales) in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean,” was published in the December 2012 issue of Botanica Marina. Green was lead author; in addition to Traggis, co-authors were UNH professors of plant biology Arthur Mathieson and Christopher Neefus, and Clinton Dawes of UNH’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory and the University of South Florida. The project was supported by the NH Sea Grant College Program and received partial funding from the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at UNH.The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.
Photographs available to download:http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2013/apr/colpomenia2.jpg
Credit: Hannah Traggishttp://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2013/apr/rockweed.png
Credit: Lindsay Green
Beth Potier | EurekAlert!
Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology