Caulerpa taxifolia

Caulerpa taxifolia

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Caulerpa taxifolia
a dangerous alga

I wanted to tell you about an alga that has now become dangerous for our seabed: the Caulerpa taxifolia.

There Caulerpa taxifolia is a seaweed fromhigh weed power, a bit like the ivy on our walls, which for some years has invaded our seabed. This alga is not typical of our areas, it is one allochthonous species, accidentally introduced into the Mediterranean and spread on a large scale thanks to the anchors of the ships, to which they remain attached and then disperse along the way. In fact, the Caulerpa taxifolia it reproduces by fragmentation, and this makes any control over its expansion difficult.

There Caulerpa taxifolia has developed in its evolution a very useful defense method, in fact produces terpenoids (caulerpine, etc.), toxic substances that make it inedible for grazing marine organisms such as sea urchins and the common salpa (Sarpa sets sail). In the tropical seas, from which it comes, the other algae have developed a kind of immunity to its toxins, thus being able to compete for space, which has not happened in the Mediterranean.

There Caulerpa taxifolia is part of the class Chlorophyta, and prefers the warm waters of tropical and subtropical seas, moreover it has a strong survival instinct, which leads it to develop resistance and growth rates different from those of origin. These differences were studied by taking samples of the place of origin and samples from the Mediterranean and making a comparison.

Caulerpa taxifolia (Note 1)

In the Mediterranean this alga is affected by "gigantism", this means that it grows much more than normal, resulting in an invasion of our seabed with a usurpation of the territory compared to other algae. It also manages to colonize the external and internal parts of the prairies of Posidonia oceanica, making it less hospitable for both animal and plant species, and thus leading to an impoverishment of the area.

Prairie of Caulerpa taxiflora is Posidonia oceanica

It is considered aweed alga as it manages to colonize completely different areas, from the rocky substrate to the muddy one, from the surface up to 50 meters deep. If we want to talk about numbers, just think that since its discovery in 1984, on the coasts in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, where it occupied just one square meter, it expanded the following year to cover 30 hectares in just one year! Being without predators and without antagonistic species, it is a fairly dangerous organism for local realities.

In the Mediterranean there are two other species of Caulerpa, which unlike this "killer" algae are indigenous, and above all they are edible, also used in human cooking.

Caulerpa is a type of alga often used in aquariums precisely for its speed of growth. The approach that can be taken is only one of study and monitoring, as it is impossible to intervene.

We only know the example of California where an attempt was made to eradicate it, but it is not yet known exactly whether it is successful. We can only look at the damage it will eventually cause or the benefits it could bring. This is the enigma when we are faced with species that come from other places, and that easily colonize an area. You cannot be sure that this is a source of disaster, because it could instead bring benefits, in the end Nature is constantly evolving.

Dr. Rossella Stocco


1. Image taken from the blog

In the Mediterranean Sea, caulerpa has infested thousands of acres of seafloor. It created ecological and economic devastation by overgrowing and eliminating native sea grasses, reefs, and other native communities. It has harmed tourism and recreational diving, and had a costly impact on commercial fishing by altering the fishery and entangling fishing nets. Should caulerpa adapt to the cooler waters of Puget Sound, it could have devastating impacts to Washington.

Do not dump the contents of any aquarium into marine or freshwaters. Do not purchase, plant, or trade this species. Although the federal government lists caulerpa taxifolia on the federal noxious weed list, there are other caulerpa species for sale. Do not purchase caulerpa on the Internet. Please see more information here for aquarium owners or see our “Dont Let it Loose” campaign page.

Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae

(Caulerpa taxifolia)

Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate • Lighting: Moderate to High • Placement: Any • Maximum Size: Varies • Water Conditions: 58-89В ° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.021-1.025• Propagation: Pruning • Coloration: Green • Supplements: Trace elements, magnesium, iron• Origin: Native to Indian Ocean, Established in Mediterranean Sea, Southern California• Family: Caulerpaceae • Species: Macro Algae

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Species Information

Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae is an extremely hardy species of macro algae capable of growing very rapidly and in a wide range of aquatic environments. This species is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures ranging from 58В ° F to almost 90В ° F as well as, being able to grow on a wide variety of surfaces including: rock, sand, coral structures and even entwined with other plants.

Native to the Indian Ocean, Caulerpa Taxifolia has since taken root in both the Mediterranean Sea and portions of the Pacific ocean off the coast of Southern California through accidental introduction via commercial fishing nets and from aquarium hobbyists discarding it into coastal waters.

The rapid growth of Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae is what makes it both highly desirable to aquarium hobbyists for nutrient export, but also what makes it an invasive species that can take over a native natural habitat. In nature Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae will often spread rapidly and crowd out and replace native algae and sea grasses. Additionally, it is highly toxic to the herbivores who feed on the native algae that it replaces, which allows it to grow unchecked and out of control.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae in the home aquarium.

Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae is very hardy species that is extremely easy to care for in an aquarium or sump environment. Most hobbyists keep this species in sumps or vegetable filters in order to keep nitrates low and the resulting nuisance algae out of their main display aquarium. Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae can grow rapidly under the correct conditions and then pruned, with the pruned plants being removed from the aquarium and discarded. This takes all of the nitrate and phosphate that the plants consumed and removes them from the aquarium environment.

Despite being an attractive looking plant, this is not generally considered to be a good plant to introduce into the display aquarium, as it will quickly grow over the rock work, sand and any corals, choking out competing plants and corals and turning the aquarium into a jungle of macro algae.

Unlike some of the other plants and macro algae commonly grown in home aquariums and sumps, Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae is highly toxic to herbivore fish species who would normally consume many other forms of macro algae or seaweed. It is due to this reason that both California and Federal laws have been enacted to prevent the importation, interstate sale (including Internet sale), and transport of Caulerpa taxifolia. However, it can still be found within the hobby as it is so easy to grow and keep and many hobbyists still use it as an effective form of nutrient / nuisance algae control.

However, as a form of nutrient export, Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae is highly efficient and very effective. Hobbyists who keep this species under control and in external sumps are rewarded with an excellent form of nutrient export on par with or even more effective than Chaetomorpha algae or algae scrubbing solutions.

Growth and Feeding

How to properly feed & supplement Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae and provide a healthy environment.

Hobbyists need only provide a strong light source of 5000 - 8000 Kelvin lighting, water flow and a source of nitrate in order to grow Caulerpa Taxifolia Algae. Once basic lighting and nutrient needs are met, this species reproduces vegetatively, with growth of up to 1 cm per day, and can form new stems and fronds from mere segments of itself.

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Caulerpa taxifolia

Common Name: Killer Algae (hybrid form)

Scientific Name : Caulerpa taxifolia (Photo from Makowka, J. 2000)

Phylum or Division: Chlorophyta
Class: Ulrophycea
Order: Caulerpales
Family: Caulerpaceae

Identification: A bright green algae with feathery branches that vary in length from 5-65 cm. in tropical waters, while the hybrid form grows much larger with plants up to 10 feet.

Original Distribution: Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Current Distribution: Original locations, with hybrid form having spread throughout much of the Mediterranean Sea. Also found in the Adriatic Sea, the Southeastern coast of California (although perhaps completely eradicated there now), and the Southeastern coast of Australia.

Site and Date of Introduction: Probably introduced into the Mediterranean Sea in Monaco in 1984.

Mode (s) of Introduction: The hybrid form of Caulerpa taxifolia was most likely produced as a result of the tropical form having been captively bred for a number of years by the Saltwater Aquarium at the Wilhelmina Zoo in Stuttgart Germany. They were trying to identify a hearty breed of seaweed that could be used commercially in saltwater aquariums that was also very attractive to the eye with a form and color that would make a beautiful backdrop for exotic fish. After having been exposed to tank chemicals and ultraviolet lights over the course of several years, it is believed that, unbeknownst to the staff at the time, these abiotic stressors created the current mutant form of Caulerpa taxifolia . Samples were sent to various institutions, including the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco, where it was probably leaked into the environment. A marine biologist, Alexandre Meinsz, first discovered it under the windows of that Museum when it was first found in the sea as a small patch of about a square meter. It spread to cover more than 2.5 acres in less than five years and by 1997 it covered more than 11,000 acres along the coast of the Mediterranean, reaching North Africa.

Reason (s) Why it has Become Established: It is an extremely hearty plant that can withstand severe nutrient deprivation, in fact it can survive out of water for up to 10 days. It can thrive in even heavily polluted waters and appears able to colonize most habitats and adapt to any milieu. It has been found in habitats that are nutrient-poor such as sandy bottoms, rocky outcroppings and mud. It can live at a variety of depths, and can cover up to 100% of the sea bottom from the surface to a depth of 35 meters. It has been observed at depths up to 100 meters. Although patches are less dense at such depths, it seems to grow to the underwater limits of vegetation. It can survive in a variety of temperatures, from tropical to temperate waters. It contains a toxin that is not harmful to humans but may be lethal to certain species of fish and invertebrates and may interfere with the eggs of some marine organisms. The plant appears unpalatable to general herbivores, and seems to grow unrestrained and develop into a dense, uniform carpet that blankets an area and persists from year to year. Other marine life leaves the area, and there are even indications that it may kill off many microscopic organisms. It has displaced rich habitats like eelgrass beds that sustain a complex food chain leaving the area unable to sustain a variety of life forms.

Ecological Role: Where Caulerpa taxifolia exists, it tends to carpet the area and become the dominant form of plant life. The creation of a dense algal expanse across a sandy bottomed sea floor alters the nutrient dynamics of the sediment. Vast quantities of organic matter tend to increase oxygen consumption in the area. Caulerpa taxifolia is known to have crowded out the sea grasses in the Mediterranean that had provided food and shelter for a variety of fish and invertebrates, a nursery for new life, and protection for the coastline. Biodiversity of plants and marine life is greatly reduced as a result of its presence because it out-competes native flora and is protected from predation by toxins that make it distasteful to marine life. There is concern about a possible transfer of toxins through the food chain from those few organisms that may eat it. For example certain mollusks have been shown to have a two to threefold increase in concentrations of metabolites, and thus become toxic to predators. One study showed that sea urchins ultimately starved rather than consume it. For these reasons it has been identified as one of the 100 greatest threats to biodiversity on the planet.

Benefit (s): Due to the extremely negative ecological and economic damage that has been done by the accidental introduction of this mutation into the wild, it is actually not possible to identify any benefits associated with this species.

Threat (s): T his fast-growing algae has been dubbed “killer algae” because it crowds out other plants and animals as it colonizes an area with great monotypic stands of vegetation. It displaces rich marine habitats that support a variety of fish and invertebrate life, and leave an area unable to nourish animal life. It has recently been reported to be smothering seagrass beds in Sydney Australia. The attempts by France, Italy, Monaco and Spain to control it in the Mediterranean have been unsuccessful because it is so easily spread by fragmentation. It is likely to be spread throughout the marine environment by boats that travel from infected waters and dump ballast water, as well as through the saltwater aquarium trade because the plant is still widely used commercially. If someone empties a tank that contains the plant into a sewer or lake, it can gain a foothold and spread quickly.

In addition to the profound threat to biodiversity, it is likely to cause widespread economic harm through reduction of marine fisheries yields, entanglement with fishing nets and choked access to harbors and marinas.

Control Level Diagnosis: Highest Priority. Experts believe it has established too strong a foothold in the Mediterranean to be eradicated or even effectively controlled there, but that the need to curb the spread is extremely urgent.

It has been identified by the Global Invasive Species Specialist Group as being among the 100 worst invasive alien species threatening biodiversity. The threat it poses to marine environments was acknowledged by the government of the United States when in 1999 Caulerpa taxifolia was classified as a Prohibited Species under the Federal Noxious Weed Act.

Control Method: It is generally recognized that if an outbreak is to be controlled it is critical to identify the plant at the earliest stages of arrival in a marine environment. Mechanical controls have been attempted in portions of the Mediterranean but with no long-term success. Because the plant spreads with fragmentation, small portions that inevitably break off when attempts are made to uproot the plant only serve to spread it further afield. Attempts to remove plants mechanically with pumps to pull out the plant have resulted in regeneration in the same place at an accelerated growth rate. Other methods, such as using underwater welding devices to kill the plant with heat, have thus far proved successful at eradication.

In terms of biological controls, two species of snail have been identified that attack the algae, Aplysia depilans , and Elysia subornata . However, due to the dangers the introduction of a new species can cause to an ecosystem, neither snail has been released for testing on the plant in open water.

In Carlsbad California the outbreak was successfully stopped through a two-stage process in which a heavy tarp was used to completely cover the plants, and then a herbicide was injected under the tarp to contain and focus the poison on the target species. It was decided to leave the tarp in place for the foreseeable future, and check the area repeatedly over the next five years.

Makowka, J. 2000, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Fact Sheet: Caulerpa taxifolia . Report to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Madl, Pierre and Maricela Yip, Literature Review of Caulerpa taxifolia - Updated June 5, 2005. Contribution to 31 st BUFUS newsletter, University of Salzburg, Molewlar Bio, Salzburg Austria.

Simberloff, Daniel, Impacts of Introduced Species in the United States. Consequences - The Nature and Implications of Environmental Change, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1996.,

Thibaut, T. and A. Meinesz, 2002. Management Successes and Failures in the Mediterranean, Universite de Nice-Sophia Antipolis.

Author: Karen Learned Cotton
Last Edited: November 14, 2005

Caulerpa taxifolia

Caulerpa taxifolia je vrsta morske trave, odnosno alge, iz roda Caulerpa. Porijeklom je iz Indijskog okeana. Alga ima stabljiku koja se širi horizontalno iznad morskog dna, a iz ove stabljike rastu okomito paprati, čiji su listovi ravni poput tise, od koje dakle vrsta dobija ime "taxifolia" (rod tise je "Taxus"). Alga stvara veliku količinu otrovne hemikalije štetne za ribe i druge grabežljivce, za razliku od drugih biljaka koje proizvode različite štetne tvari ali u manjim količinama.

To je jedna od dvije alge na popisu 100 najgorih svjetskih invazivnih vrsta prikupljenih u IUCN.

Još se ne zna način na koji je dospjela u Jadransko more, ali se zna da je u Sredozemno more puštena iz Okeanografskog muzeja u Monaku. U jadranskom podmorju prvi put je pronađena u okolini Hvara, a poslije i uz ostrva Rab i Krk. Prozvana je i algom ubicom jer na mjesto gdje se prihvati za podlogu stvara tastes sklop. Osobine alge caulerpe u Sredozemlju su drugačije od one u tropskim područjima: preživljava i na 7 ° C, raste i do 15 cm, otrovnija je i slično. Otrovne tvari koje ona luči smrtonosno djeluju na druge alge i manje morske organizme. S obzirom da smrtonosno djeluje na alge kao prvu kariku u prehrambenom lancu to dovodi do ugibanja i ostalih članova lanca ishrane. Caulerpa se prenosi sidrima, sidrenim lancima i mrežama stoga je na mjestima gdje je ona rasprostranjena potrebno spriječiti ribolov i sidrenje brdova. Zato što se Caulerpa razmnožava vegetativno uspješno se uklanja čupanjem, crnom folijom (postupak pri kojem se alga prekriva crnom folijom da bi joj se spriječio dolazak sunčeve svjetlosti koja joj je prijeko potrebna za fotosintezu zaj i ugan to je puž koji živi u australijskim morima), a kojem je alga Caulerpa hrana. Taj se eksperiment provodi u Francuskoj.

Nedovršeni članak Caulerpa taxifolia koji govori o biologiji treba afteruniti. Dopunite ga prema pravilima Wikipedije.

Video: Caulerpa taxifolia: une menace en Méditerranée


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