Genetic characteristics influence the phenotype of marine macroalga Fucus vesiculosus (Phaeophyceae)

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Intraspecific variation is an important component of heterogeneity in biological systems that can manifest at the genotypic and phenotypic level. This study investigates the influence of genetic characteristics on the phenotype of free-living Fucus vesiculosus using traditional morphological measures and microsatellite genotyping. Two sympatric morphotypes were observed to be significantly genetically and morphologically differentiated despite experiencing analogous local environmental conditions; indicating a genetic element to F. vesiculosus morphology. Additionally, the observed intraclonal variation established divergent morphology within some genets. This demonstrated that clonal lineages have the ability to alter morphological traits by either a plastic response or somatic mutations. We provide support for the potential occurrence of the Gigas effect (cellular/organ enlargement through genome duplication) in the Fucus genus, with polyploidization appearing to correlate with a general increase in the size of morphological features. Phenotypic traits, as designated by morphology within the study, of F. vesiculosus are partially controlled by the genetic characteristics of the thalli. This study suggests that largely asexually reproducing algal populations may have the potential to adapt to changing environmental conditions through genome changes or phenotypic plasticity.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9788
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number2
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • Gigas effect
  • Clonality
  • Intraclonal variation
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Polyploidy
  • Somatic mutations

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