Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First expansion of 'sea potato' seaweed into New England

Date:
April 4, 2013
Source:
University of New Hampshire
Summary:
There's a new seaweed in town, a brown, bulbous balloon befitting the nickname "sea potato." Its New England debut was spotted by two plant biology graduate students; now researchers are keeping a close eye on Colpomenia peregrina's progress to determine whether there is cause for alarm.

“Sea potato” growing on rockweed on Allen Island, Maine.
Credit: Lauren Stockwell

There's a new seaweed in town, a brown, bulbous balloon befitting the nickname "sea potato." Its New England debut was spotted by two University of New Hampshire plant biology graduate students; now researchers are keeping a close eye on the sea potato's progress to determine whether there is cause for alarm.

UNH graduate students Lindsay Green and Hannah Traggis discovered the rapid southern expansion of Colpomenia peregrina, also known as sea potato or oyster thief, during a SCUBA diving trip in Kittery, Maine, in the summer of 2011. "We saw this big brown beach ball," says Traggis, who co-authored a study of their findings in the journal Botanica Marina.

The seaweed was documented in Nova Scotia in the 1960s but never on the U.S. Atlantic coast until Green and Traggis's diving trip in 2011. In the paper, the authors explain that when they reevaluated photographs sent from concerned individuals in mid-coastal Maine, they confirmed that the seaweed had appeared there in 2010. In the summer of 2012, the sea potato had spread as far south as Sandwich, Mass., on the north shore of Cape Cod.

"It's just blown up," says Green, a Ph.D. student from Piermont. "It's expanded all the way to the Cape in just two years." While C. peregrina prefers cooler waters, the researchers anticipate that it could extend its range farther south.

Ranging in size from just a few centimeters to the size of a soccer ball, the sea potato is a greenish to yellowish brown sac that fills with air or water. It is epiphytic -- it grows on other plants -- and it's quickly become prominent in the rocky intertidal zone of the Gulf of Maine attached to common seaweeds like rockweed or Corallina officinalis, also known as coral weed.

Colpomenia peregrina looks strikingly similar to a native species, Leathesia marina, or sea cauliflower. Sea potato, however, is smoother, thinner and greenish-light brown while sea cauliflower tends to be smaller, stiffer, brain-like and dark brown; the researchers turned to microscopy and DNA analysis to make a definitive identification.

Traggis and Green are quick to characterize the sea potato as an introduced, not invasive, species in New England waters. Nonetheless, its rapid expansion into the Gulf of Maine raises concern. The seaweed earned its "oyster thief" nickname after its introduction to France in the early 1900s led to significant damage to the oyster industry.

"The seaweed was like a balloon attached to the oysters. Literally, whole oyster beds disappeared because they floated away," says Traggis, a master's student from Buzzards Bay, Mass. While no negative effects have been reported on New England's shellfish industry, the researchers note that the region's oyster industry is valued at $117.6 million.

The researchers and other scientists are keeping a close eye on C. peregrina for other ways it could alter the natural community and native flora. "It occurs in high density on many local seaweeds, and it's competing with them for space, nutrients and light," says Green. "In the summer it's becoming a bit of a nuisance."

As the warming days bring more people to New England's shoreline, "we want people to know that this is here and that there are researchers interested in learning about it," says Green, adding that while there's no need for citizens to eradicate the sea potato if they find it, they shouldn't move it around. They encourage beachcombers -- the natural beach balls are likely to attract the curiosity of kids in particular -- to contact the Department of Marine Resources (Maine: http://www.maine.gov/dmr/index.htm; New Hampshire: http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/marine/; Massachusetts: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dmf/) when they find C. peregrina.

The paper, "Southern expansion of the brown alga Colpomenia peregrina Sauvageau (Scytosiphonales) in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean," was published in the December 2012 issue of Botanica Marina. Green was lead author; in addition to Traggis, co-authors were UNH professors of plant biology Arthur Mathieson and Christopher Neefus, and Clinton Dawes of UNH's Jackson Estuarine Laboratory and the University of South Florida. The project was supported by the NH Sea Grant College Program and received partial funding from the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at UNH.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New Hampshire. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lindsay A. Green, Arthur C. Mathieson, Christopher D. Neefus, Hannah M. Traggis, Clinton J. Dawes. Southern expansion of the brown alga Colpomenia peregrina Sauvageau (Scytosiphonales) in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Botanica Marina, 2012; 55 (6) DOI: 10.1515/bot-2012-0157

Cite This Page:

University of New Hampshire. "First expansion of 'sea potato' seaweed into New England." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404184531.htm>.
University of New Hampshire. (2013, April 4). First expansion of 'sea potato' seaweed into New England. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404184531.htm
University of New Hampshire. "First expansion of 'sea potato' seaweed into New England." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404184531.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lion Cubs the Pride of San Diego Zoo

Lion Cubs the Pride of San Diego Zoo

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 13, 2014) Roars of excitement as a proud lioness shows off her four cubs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins