The Diversity of Coolia spp. (Dinophyceae Ostreopsidaceae) in the Central Great Barrier Reef Region

Paolo Momigliano, Leanne Sparrow, David Blair, Kirsten Ruth Heimann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background:Dinoflagellates are important primary producers, crucial in marine food webs. Toxic strains, however, are the main causative agents of non-bacterial seafood poisoning, a major concern for public health worldwide. Despite their importance, taxonomic uncertainty within many genera of dinoflagellates is still high. The genus Coolia includes potentially harmful species and the diversity within the genus is just starting to become apparent.Methodology/Principal Findings:In the current study, cultures were established from strains of Coolia spp. isolated from the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Cultures were identified based on thecal plate morphology and analyses of sequences (18S, ITS and 28S) from the nuclear rRNA operon. We report that the central GBR harbors a high diversity of Coolia species, including two species known to be capable of toxin production (C. tropicalis and C. malayensis), as well as the non-toxic C. canariensis. The strain of C. canariensis isolated from the GBR may in fact be a cryptic species, closely related but nevertheless phylogenetically distinct from the strain on which the holotype of C. canariensis was based. We also found evidence of the occurrence of a cryptic species morphologically very similar to both C. malayensis and C. monotis. The consequences of taxonomic confusion within the genus are discussed.Conclusion/Significance:The central GBR region harbors a previously unreported high diversity of Coolia spp., including two species known to potentially produce toxins. The presence of a cryptic species of unknown toxicity highlights the importance of cryptic diversity within dinoflagellates.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere79278
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2013


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