March 02, 2008
They have named it the 'Golden V' kelp because of its distinctive shape and color, with the scientific name of Aureophycus alueticus.
"Being part of this discovery is a highlight of my career," said NOAA Fisheries scientist Mandy Lindeberg. "These days you don't just go out and discover a new large kelp. I guess Alaska is truly the last frontier."
Lindeberg first spotted the new species near Kagamil Island in the central Aleutian Islands of Alaska while participating in an Alaska Department of Conservation coastal survey in 2006. The survey team made a special stop in 2007 to collect more specimens and gather knowledge about the kelp's habitat and distribution.
The Golden V kelp was discovered in very cold, clear water attached to large boulders in the shallow subtidal zone. The kelp can grow up to 9 feet long and has a paddle-shaped 'leaf' with a golden-yellow 'stem'. The' holdfast'-the portion of the kelp that attaches to the rock--is an unusual disc-shape which can withstand high-energy waves frequently encountered in the Aleutian Islands.
Since the specimens were collected, Lindeberg and colleagues Dr. Hiroshi Kawai from Kobe University, and Dr. Sandra Lindstrom from the University of British Columbia have been analyzing and documenting the discovery. Genetic analyses using chloroplast, nuclear, and mitochrondrial DNA indicate that the distinctively-shaped kelp does not belong to any previously known species or genus of kelp, nor does it fit easily within any recognized family.
"The distinctive morphology of the Golden V Kelp, its unique geographic location, and its position in the phylogenetic tree provide important clues to the evolution and spread of kelps throughout the Pacific Ocean," Lindeberg said.
Kelps provide critical habitat for a wide variety of marine life, and, Lindeberg said this discovery represents a major step forward in understanding this resource.
"Kagamil Island is an expensive and remote destination but we hope to return in the future and learn more about the Golden V Kelp," she added.
Lindeberg, Kawai and Lindstrom recently received word that their paper describing the new species has been accepted in the Journal of Phycology.
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