We gathered sequence information from the nuclear 5.8S rDNA gene and associated internal transcribed spacers, ITS-1 and ITS-2 (5.8S rDNA/ITS), and the chloroplast maturase K (matK) gene, from Zostera samples collected from subtidal habitats in Monterey and Santa Barbara (Isla Vista) bays, California, to test the hypothesis that these plants are conspecific with Z. asiatica Miki of Asia. Sequences from approximately 520 base pairs of the nuclear 5.8S rDNA/ITS obtained from the subtidal Monterey and Isla Vista Zostera samples were identical to homologous sequences obtained from Z. marina collected from intertidal habitats in Japan, Alaska, Oregon and California. Similarly, sequences from the matK gene from the subtidal Zostera samples were identical to matK sequences obtained from Z. marina collected from intertidal habitats in Japan, Alaska, Oregon and California, but differed from Z. asiatica sequences accessioned into GenBank. This suggests the subtidal plants are conspecific with Z. marina, not Z. asiatica. However, we found that herbarium samples accessioned into the Kyoto University Herbarium, determined to be Z. asiatica, yielded 5.8S rDNA/ITS sequences consistent with either Z. japonica, in two cases, or Z. marina, in one case. Similar results were observed for the chloroplast matK gene; we found haplotypes that were inconsistent with published matK sequences from Z. asiatica collected from Japan. These results underscore the need for closer examination of the relationship between Z. marina along the Pacific Coast of North America, and Z. asiatica of Asia, for the retention and verification of specimens examined in scientific studies, and for assessment of the usefulness of morphological characters in the determination of taxonomic relationships within Zosteraceae.
Additional publication details
Genetic characterization of Zostera asiatica on the Pacific Coast of North America