Morphometric Analysis of Surface Utricles in Halimeda tuna (Bryopsidales, Ulvophyceae) Reveals Variation in Their Size and Symmetry within Individual Segments
Calcifying marine green algae of genus Halimeda have siphonous thalli composed of repeated segments. Their outer surface is formed by laterally appressed peripheral utricles which often form a honeycomb structure, typically with varying degrees of asymmetry in the individual polygons. This study is focused on a morphometric analysis of the size and symmetry of these polygons in Mediterranean H. tuna. Asymmetry of surface utricles is studied using a continuous symmetry measure quantifying the
... quantifying the deviation of polygons from perfect symmetry. In addition, the segment shapes are also captured by geometric morphometrics and compared to the utricle parameters. The area of surface utricles is proved to be strongly related to their position on segments, where utricles near the segment bases are considerably smaller than those located near the apical and lateral margins. Interestingly, this gradient is most pronounced in relatively large reniform segments. The polygons are most symmetric in the central parts of segments, with asymmetry uniformly increasing towards the segment margins. Mean utricle asymmetry is found to be unrelated to segment shapes. Systematic differences in utricle size across different positions might be related to morphogenetic patterns of segment development, and may also indicate possible small-scale variations in CaCO3 content within segments.