The endemic Cladophorales (Ulvophyceae) of ancient Lake Baikal represent a monophyletic group of very closely related but morphologically diverse species
© 2018 Phycological Society of America Lake Baikal, the oldest lake in the world, is home to spectacular biodiversity and extraordinary levels of endemism. While many of the animal species flocks from Lake Baikal are famous examples of evolutionary radiations, the lake also includes a wide diversity of endemic algae that are not well investigated with regards to molecular-biological taxonomy and phylogeny. The endemic taxa of the green algal order Cladophorales show a range of divergent
... f divergent morphologies that led to their classification in four genera in two families. We sequenced partial large- and small-subunit rDNA as well as the internal transcribed spacer region of 14 of the 16 described endemic taxa to clarify their phylogenetic relationships. One endemic morphospecies, Cladophora kusnetzowii, was shown to be conspecific with the widespread Aegagropila linnaei. All other endemic morphospecies formed a monophyletic group nested within the genus Rhizoclonium (Cladophoraceae), a very surprising result, in stark contrast to their morphological affinities. The Baikal clade represents a species flock of closely related taxa with very low genetic differentiation. Some of the morphospecies were congruent with lineages recovered in the phylogenies, but due to the low phylogenetic signal in the rDNA sequences the relationships within the Baikal clade were not all well resolved. The Baikal clade appears to represent a recent radiation, based on the low molecular divergence within the group, and it is hypothesized that the large morphological variation results from diversification in sympatry from a common ancestor in Lake Baikal.