Ulvalean algae (Chlorophyta) are most commonly described from intertidal and shallow subtidal marine environments worldwide, but are less well known from mesophotic environments. Their morphological simplicity and phenotypic plasticity make accurate species determinations difficult, even at the generic level. Here, we describe the mesophotic Ulvales species composition from 13 locations across 2,300 km of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Twenty-eight representative Ulvales specimens from 64 to 125 m depths were collected using technical diving, submersibles, and remotely operated vehicles. Morphological and molecular characters suggest that mesophotic Ulvales in Hawaiian waters form unique communities comprising four species within the genera Ulva and Umbraulva, each with discrete geographic and/or depth-related distributional patterns. Three genetically distinct taxa are supported by both plastid (rbcL and tufA) and nuclear (ITS1) markers, and are presented here as new species: Umbraulva kaloakulau, Ulva ohiohilulu, and Ulva iliohaha. We also propose a new Umbraulva species (Umbraulva kuaweuweu), which is closely related to subtidal records from New Zealand and Australia, but not formally described. To our knowledge, these are the first marine species descriptions from Hawai‘i resulting from the collaboration of traditional Hawaiian nomenclature specialists, cultural practitioners and scientists. The difficulty of finding reliable diagnostic morphological characters for these species reflects a common problem worldwide of achieving accurate identification of ulvalean taxa using solely morphological criteria. Mesophotic Ulvales appear to be distinct from shallow-water populations in Hawai‘i, but their degree of similarity to mesophotic floras in other locations in the Pacific remains unknown.
Algae (Macro, Turf and Crustose Coralline)
USA - Hawaii