ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION: Invader Profiling

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Science  19 Jul 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5580, pp. 303d
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5580.303d

An aggressively invasive strain of the tropical alga Caulerpa taxifolia was first reported from the Mediterranean coast of France in the mid-1980s. Since then, it has dispersed and expanded to cover more than 13,000 hectares of Mediterranean seabed; more recently, it has also been reported from the coast of California, USA. The invasive strain, which is widely thought to have been introduced accidentally from aquarium waste, is cold-tolerant, hence its survival in these unaccustomed waters. Successful eradication of such invaders can depend on early and correct identification. Famà et al. have developed a genetic assay, based on the presence or absence of a 735-base pair intron (noncoding region) in the rbcL gene of the Caulerpa chloroplast DNA. Unlike other strains, the invasive strain lacks the intron; the PCR-based assay rapidly distinguishes the invasive strain from other strains of the alga. Such techniques, which have also been used successfully in the case of other aquatic invaders such as the zebra mussel, may help coastal environment managers to halt the spread of the invader. — AMS

J. Evol. Biol. 15, 618 (2002).

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