Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UNH Scientists Document First Expansion of ‘Sea Potato’ Seaweed Into New England

05.04.2013
There’s a new seaweed in town, a brown, bulbous balloon befitting the nickname “sea potato.” Its New England debut was spotted by two University of New Hampshire plant biology graduate students; now researchers are keeping a close eye on the sea potato’s progress to determine whether there is cause for alarm.

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
Caption: University of New Hampshire graduate student Hannah Traggis holds Colpomenia peregrina found at Fort Stark in New Castle in April 2012

Credit: Hannah Traggis

http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2013/apr/rockweed.png
“Sea potato” growing on rockweed on Allen Island, Maine
Credit: Lauren Stockwell
http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2013/apr/colpomenia.jpg
This C. peregrina, or “sea potato,” collected from the Isles of Shoals in Maine and New Hampshire illustrates its size range

Credit: Lindsay Green

Beth Potier | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unh.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Weather extremes: Humans likely influence giant airstreams

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>