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Mutation of microalgae from antifouling sensitivity to antifouling resistance allows phytoplankton dispersal through ships’ biofouling

AuthorsCostas, Eduardo; Gonzalez, Raquel; López-Rodas, Victoria ; Huertas, I. Emma
Introduced species
Issue DateAug-2013
CitationBiological Invasions 15(8): 739-1750 (2013)
AbstractMarine ecosystems are affected by introduced species including microalgae. We propose that biofouling on ships’ hulls is a potentially important mechanism for microalgae dispersal worldwide. Biofouling samples, for phytoplankton composition analysis, were collected in Spanish Mediterranean ports from the hulls of ships that had completed oceanic journeys from other Mediterranean ports, and long journeys from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Samples representing the local population of phytoplankton either in the water column or attached to the biofouling of locally-based ship-hulls were used as controls. A broad variety of microalgae species (including toxic dinoflagellates), which were not present in the local phytoplankton populations were found on the biofouling film of the ships that had been on distant journeys. In spite of the presence of the antifouling paints containing toxic compounds, microalgae were able to rapidly adapt to these non-favourable conditions. Consequently, our study shows that ships’ biofouling seems to be a powerful vector for microalgae dispersal at a global scale due to the capacity of microalgae to attach to the biofouling film and to cope by adaptation mechanisms with antifouling compounds.
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