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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

The possible significance of long-range dispersal for the biogeography of seaweeds

  • C. van den Hoek1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen41:BF02366191


Indirect evidence of the existence of long-distance dispersal of seaweeds is provided by the fact that mid-oceanic islands of volcanic origin are inhabited by well-developed seaweed floras which could reach these islands only overseas from continental donor areas. For instance, the flora of Tristan da Cunha (S. Atlantic Ocean) was established by long-distance dispersal in less than 1 million years (the approximate age of the island); the seaweed flora of the Faeroes (N. Atlantic Ocean) could be constituted in less than 10,000 years (the end of the Pleistocene ice cover of these islands). There is no evidence for either supporting or discounting the possible role of planktonic stages of seaweeds (spores, propagules, zygotes) in the long-distance dispersal of seaweeds. There is, however, some evidence of long-distance dispersal as floating plants, or as plants attached to floating objects (including floating algae). There are a few examples of “artificial” long-range dispersal by man (possibly on ship hulls, oysters, in ballast water). Long-range dispersal of seaweeds does exist, but it is an exception rather than the rule. If it were the rule, the world’s seaweed floras would show similar latitudinal gradients in species composition in the oceans and on both hemispheres. This is, however, not the case.