Characterization of the biodiversity of dinoflagellates microalgae from the Catalan Coast

Scientists from the Marine Sciences Institute (ICM-CSIC) have studied the presence of dinoflagellates belonging to the order Gymnodiniales in the Catalan shores during three years. The study, led by Dr. Albert Reñé, has allowed establishing for the first time how many species of Gymnodiniales inhabit in that shores. There are about 59 different species, 13 of them detected for the first time in the Mediterranean, and some others totally new to science. The results of the study, carried out by Albert Reñé, Jordi Camp and Esther Garcés (PI), members of ICM-CSIC, has been published in Protist.


  • The combination of morphological and genetic analyses reveals the presence of a high diversity of dinoflagellates belonging to the Gymnodiniales in that coastal zone.
  • Many detected species had never been observed in the Mediterranean Sea before and some species detected are new to science.
  • Among new detections, there are toxic species that suppose a health risk in case they bloom.

About 600 species of Gymnodiniales are known, being one of the most diverse group of dinoflagellates. The 59 species detected in the Catalan Coast represent the 22% of species ever detected in the whole Mediterranean. Among them, there are toxic and harmful species that can affect the human health. “Until now”, says Albert Reñé, “there was an important lack of knowledge about their presence and distribution in the Mediterranean, partly caused by the difficulty of their identification, given their morphological plasticity, the problems establishing cultures and the need to observe them in vivo”.

The scientists have studied the microalgae morphologically and genetically. For 27 of the 50 sequenced species, it is the first time that their genetic information has been obtained.

This information is highly valuable locally but also globally. On the one hand, some toxic microalgae have been detected for the first time in the area. This fact highlights that “in a moment when we are asked to manage the diversity of organisms, when we investigate in depth we realize that we still don’t have a precise image of the ocean’s diversity” says Esther Garcés.

On the other hand, the genetic sequences obtained allow to study the phylogenetic relationships of different genera of the group, and provide valuable information for reference databases used for environmental sequencing.

Albert Reñé, Jordi Camp and Esther Garcés (2015) Diversity and Phylogeny of Gymnodiniales (Dinophyceae) from the NW Mediterranean Sea Revealed by a Morphological and Molecular Approach. Protist, Vol. 166 (2): 234–263.


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