Two new red seaweed species discovered from West, South-East coast – Times of India

BATHINDA: Marine biologists from Central University of Punjab have discovered two new native species of marine algae, also called seaweeds, from the coasts of Gujarat, Diu and Tamil Nadu. The species are named Hypnea indica and Hypnea bullata. The species Hypnea indica – named so as a tribute to the country- has been discovered from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, Somnath Pathan and Sivrajpur in Gujarat. Hypnea bullata – named because of bullate (like blisters) feature of the seaweed morphology- is discovered from Kanyakumari and Diu island of Daman and Diu (UT). The research team encompassing doctorate student Pushpendu Kundu and his supervisor Associate Professor Felix Bast used an approach combining morphology-based traditional techniques with DNA Sequence-based modern tools for formalizing the species discovery.

These newly discovered seaweeds are economically important because species of Hypnea are known to contain Carrageenan, an important biomolecule (a dietary fiber) used extensively in food industry. As these two species are found on both West and South-East coasts, the discovery opens up new vistas for the commercial cultivation of these two species, that could very well support the coastal communities as a source of their livelihood. While India has one of the longest coastlines in the world with more than 7500 kilometers, seaweed cultivation and processing mostly remains an untapped resource. The governments too have highlighted the importance of seaweeds and a possibility of seaweed farming as a revenue generator for country’s economy. Recently seaweed extracts and seaweed-based bio stimulants had been included in the fertilizer control order (FCO) in India through a notification.

Newly discovered species Hypnea Indica and Hypnea Bullata.

This group from Department of Botany at Central University had in the past discovered three other seaweed species from Indian coastline (Ulva paschima, Cladophora goensis, and Ulva uniseriata).

“It has been estimated that the planet earth has 1 trillion species of living organisms, out of which we know merely 1.2 million till date. Discovering new species like this is important not only for the characterization of the biodiversity of earth, but also the fact that the economic utilization might remain to be invented by future generations. As naturally occurring living organisms cannot be patented in India, species discoveries like this is an analogous process. These newly discovered species, like other Hypnea species, has extensive calcareous deposits on its body. Several recent studies have shown that algae with calcareous mineral deposits are prone for the damage from Ocean Acidification, an aftermath of climate change. As Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere gets dissolved in ocean waters, the seawater becomes more acidic. Because the algae like Hypnea cannot survive in acidic seawater, the only way to help these species is to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by adopting sustainable lifestyle choices”, said Felix Bast.

The paper describing the discovery has been accepted for publication in the leading international journal in marine botany, Botanica Marina.

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