New al­gal species found off Dho­far coast

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

A new species of red sea­weed was re­cently dis­cov­ered off Dho­far coast bring­ing the to­tal to 18 found near Oman’s south­ern gov­er­norate. This in­cludes red, green and brown al­gae.

The new species has been de­scribed by Dr Michael Wynne of the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, as Marten­sia in­cip­i­ens, found off Sadah coast, east of Salalah.

Based on ini­tial work from the 1980s when a group from the Univer­sity of York, UK, car­ried out eco­log­i­cal stud­ies on the kelp com­mu­ni­ties of south­ern Oman, more ef­fort to iden­tify the al­gal flora was needed.

As a re­sult, the Al­gal Bio­di­ver­sity Project of Oman was funded by a Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment ‘Dar­win Ini­tia­tive’ grant (1999-2002).

The project in­volved the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum of Oman (Min­istry of Her­itage and Cul­ture) along with the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Herbar­ium (US) and the Bri­tish Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum, Lon­don. Ini­tial re­sults of this project were re­ported from 1999 to 2008.

About Marten­sia in­cip­i­ens, Dr Wynne said, the new species has bril­liant iri­des­cent colours rang­ing from pink to li­lac in the liv­ing con­di­tion.

In 2018, Dr Wynne pub­lished a check­list of the sea­weeds of the North­ern Ara­bian Sea coast of Oman, in which a to­tal of 402 species of brown, green and red al­gae were pre­sented. “That stretch of coast­line is im­pacted by the sea­sonal mon­soon, the ‘kha­reef’, when con­stant winds cause strong wave ac­tion, up­welling, higher nu­tri­ent lev­els and colder wa­ter tem­per­a­tures. An ad­di­tional fac­tor is that the con­ti­nen­tal shelf is rel­a­tively nar­row in the re­gion be­tween Mir­bat and Sadah, and thus the oceanic con­di­tions are even more pro­nounced,” Dr Wynne said.

He said that many of the new Omani species are con­spic­u­ously large, that is, much larger than other known species in their gen­era. “Th­ese in­clude Champia gi­gan­tea, Leveil­lea ma­jor, Bry­op­sis ro­busta [names re­flect­ing their larger sizes], Chrysy­menia tig­illum, Dipte­ro­cla­dia ara­bi­en­sis and Cen­tro­ceras se­cun­dum.

“Another ro­bust and com­mon new species is Ge­lid­ium oma­nense, in a genus that is a sig­nif­i­cant source of agar, a valu­able phy­co­col­loid.”

In ad­di­tion to dis­cov­er­ing new species in Oman, Dr Wynne also de­scribed two new gen­era, a higher clas­si­fi­ca­tion of al­gae. “So far th­ese two new gen­era are known only from Oman.”

Th­ese are Pseu­do­grin­nel­lia bar­rat­tiae, the species named for the col­lec­tor, Lynne Bar­ratt of Hunt­ing Aquatic Re­sources, York, UK.

The other new genus is Stir­nia pro­lif­era, which hon­ours Dr Joze Stirn, who was ear­lier with the Depart­ment of Fish­eries Science and Tech­nol­ogy, Sul­tan Qa­boos Univer­sity who pro­vided many of the col­lec­tions.

Dr Wynne said the wave-buf­feted shores of south­ern Oman are an amaz­ingly rich source of sea­weed di­ver­sity, one that de­serves fur­ther at­ten­tion.

The Na­tional Herbar­ium of Oman (with acro­nym (ON)) within the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum in­cludes the al­gae col­lec­tion with more than 800 spec­i­mens.

Dr Michael Wynne with an al­gal species

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