Hidden biodiversity of the extremophilic Cyanidiales red algae

Claudia Ciniglia, Hwan Su Yoon, Antonino Pollio, Gabriele Pinto, Debashish Bhattacharya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The Cyanidiales is a group of asexual, unicellular red algae, which thrive in acidic and high temperature conditions around hot springs. These unicellular taxa have a relatively simple morphology and are currently classified into three genera, Cyanidium, Cyanidioschyzon and Galdieria. Little is known, however, about the biodiversity of Cyanidiales, their population structure and their phylogenetic relationships. Here we used a taxonomically broadly sampled three-gene data set of plastid sequences to infer a robust phylogenetic framework for the Cyanidiales. The phylogenetic analyses support the existence of at least four distinct Cyanidiales lineage: the Galdieria spp. lineage (excluding Galdieria maxima), the Cyanidium caldarium lineage, a novel monophyletic lineage of mesophilic Cyanidium spp. and the Cyanidioschyzon merolae plus Galdieria maxima lineage. Our analyses do not support the notion of a mesophilic ancestry of the Cyanidiales and suggest that these algae were ancestrally thermo-acidotolerant. We also used environmental polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the rbcL gene to sample Cyanidiales biodiversity at five ecologically distinct sites at Pisciarelli in the Phlegrean Fields in Italy. This analysis showed a high level of sequence divergence among Cyanidiales species and the partitioning of taxa based on environmental conditions. Our research revealed an unexpected level of genetic diversity among Cyanidiales that revises current thinking about the phylogeny and biodiversity of this group. We predict that future environmental PCR studies will significantly augment known biodiversity that we have discovered and demonstrate the Cyanidiales to be a species-rich branch of red algal evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1827-1838
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


  • Biodiversity
  • Cyanidiales
  • Extremophile
  • Phylogeny
  • Plastid genes
  • Red algae

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