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Diversity and origin of the genus Lobophora in the Mediterranean Sea including the description of two new species


The brown algal genus Lobophora is widely reported from the Mediterranean Sea. Contrary to studies in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean regions, little attention has been given to Lobophora in the Mediterranean Sea, at least using molecular tools. To address this knowledge gap, we sampled specimens across the Mediterranean Sea (Spanish coast, Balearic Islands, Greece and Israel), with an exhaustive effort in the Balearic Islands. Molecular analyses disclosed the presence of three species, none of them conspecific with the name L. variegata, as they were recorded up to now in the Mediterranean Sea. The most common species in the Mediterranean Sea is L. delicata. We here describe L. schneideri sp. nov., so far found only in Haifa Bay (Israel), where it forms large and dense populations. Similar to L. delicata, L. schneideri occurs across the North Atlantic Ocean. Though a recent range expansion or introduction cannot be ruled out, we regard the North Atlantic Ocean, including the Greater Caribbean and the Mediterranean Sea, as the natural range of both L. schneideri and L. delicata. A third species, described here as L. lessepsiana sp. nov., is found along the Israeli coast as well as in the Red Sea and is most probably a recent introduction through the Suez Canal. Further exploration along the North African coast, the Levantine Sea and the Aegean Sea, would probably increase the currently known species diversity for this group in the Mediterranean Sea.