Molecular-assisted taxonomic studies on some Caulerpa (Bryopsidales, Ulvophyceae) species from Aurora province and Benham Bank, Philippine Rise, Philippines

Congratulations to our research associate and master student JM Lastimoso for winning the first prize in the Young Systematic Biologists Forum – Graduate Category.

His presentation of the paper, “Molecular-assisted taxonomic studies on some Caulerpa (Bryopsidales, Ulvophyceae) species from Aurora province and Benham Bank, Philippine Rise, Philippines”, authored by John Michael L. Lastimoso, Ivan Patrick B. Tualla, Mary Joyce P. Velos, Denise Faye S. Janer, Hazel O. Arceo, Cesar L. Villanoy, Fernando O. Siringan, and Wilfred John E. Santiañez at the 40th Association of Systematic Biologists of the Philippines Symposium and Annual Meeting, earned him the highest distinction.

In their paper, they presented the taxonomy and molecular phylogeny of Caulerpa specimens collected from the subtidal areas of Aurora province in northeastern Luzon, and the mesophotic depths of the Benham Bank in the Philippine Rise. Their morpho-anatomical observations and molecular phylogenetic analyses based on tufA sequence data suggest that the Caulerpa samples are attributable to three distinct taxa: Caulerpa bikinensis, Caulerpa chemnitzia, and Caulerpa macrodisca. Two of these (C. chemnitzia and C. macrodisca) were found in Aurora while the last one, C. bikinensis, was collected from the Benham Bank. It was noted that C. bikinensis forms an extensive bed in Benham Bank, playing a very important role in the productivity of the area. This is the first report of C. macrodisca and C. bikinensis in the northern Philippine Sea region and their work highlights the need to conduct a thorough inventory of seaweed resources in the area, especially considering their significant roles in supporting the productivity of coastal and mesophotic ecosystems.

This project is funded by the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the Predicting Responses between Ocean Transport and Ecological Connectivity of Threatened ecosystems in the West Philippines Sea (PROTECT WPS 2) (2019–2020) and the Surveying and Assessing Valuable Ecosystems and seascapes in Philippine Rise (SAVE PhilRise) (2021–2022) projects, while their molecular work on the Caulerpa is also partially funded by DOST-PCAARRD thru the project entitled “Biological and Ecological Studies on Asparagopsis taxiformis (BEAT) for Culture Technology Development”.