Tronholm A., Sansón M., Afonso-Carrillo J., Verbruggen H. & De Clerck O. (2010)
Niche partitioning and the coexistence of two cryptic Dictyota (Dictyotales, Phaeophyceae) species from the Canary Islands
Journal of Phycology 46: 1075-1087


Coexistence in a homogeneous environment requires species to specialize in distinct niches. Sympatry of cryptic species is of special interest to both ecologists and evolutionary biologists because the mechanisms that facilitate their persistent coexistence are obscure. In this study, we report on two sympatric Dictyota species, D. dichotoma (Huds.) J.V. Lamour. and the newly described species D. cymatophila sp. nov., from the Canary Islands. Gene sequence data (rbcL, psbA, nad1, cox1, cox3, and LSU rDNA) demonstrate that D. dichotoma and D. cymatophila do not represent sister species. Rather, D. cymatophila and D. dichotoma have converged on a nearly identical morphology, only to be distinguished with detailed morphometric observations. Both species co-occur in eulittoral pools and the shallow subtidal in Tenerife. Even though D. cymatophila was more dominant in wave-exposed places and D. dichotoma in less exposed areas, the spatial distribution of both species overlapped in intermediate habitats. The species display radically different phenologies. D. dichotoma reached its highest density in winter and early spring and disappeared nearly completely in autumn, while D. cymatophila dominated the study site from July until November. The timing of gamete release also differs between both species, D. dichotoma releasing gametes twice every lunar cycle, while the release of gametes in D. cymatophila occurred roughly every other day.

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