Caulerpa taxifolia (A Comprehensive Guide)

Caulerpa taxifolia Featured Image

Caulerpa taxifolia is a species of green seaweed, which is an alga from the genus Caulerpa.

This plant is native to tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Caribbean Sea.

This species gets its name taxifolia from the resemblance of its leaf-like fronds to those of the yew tree.

Where Has Caulerpa taxifolia Spread?

Caulerpa taxifolia has established non-native populations in waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the United States, and Australia.

This is due to a strain of the species that was bred for use in aquariums.

It’s one of the two algae species listed in “100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species” compiled by the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group.

What Does Caulerpa taxifolia Look Like?

Caulerpa taxifolia is light green in color with stolons (stems) on the sea floor.

It has sparsely-branched upright fronds that are approximately 8 to 24 in (20 to 60 cm) in height.

The algae in this genus, including C. taxifolia, produce a mixture of toxins called caulerpicin, which gives the plants a peppery taste.

What Is Unique About Caulerpa taxifolia’s Cell Structure?

Caulerpa taxifolia, like all members of the genus Caulerpa, consists of a single cell with many nuclei.

This alga has been identified as the largest known single-celled organism.

In the wild, C. taxifolia is monoecious, meaning it has both male and female reproductive organs.

Why Is Caulerpa taxifolia Used in Aquariums?

Caulerpa species are commonly used in aquariums because of their aesthetic qualities and their ability to control the growth of undesired species.

The aquarium strain of C. taxifolia is morphologically identical to native populations of the species.

However, a study found that a population of the aquarium strain near Caloundra, Australia exhibited reduced sexual reproduction.

How Did the Aquarium Strain of Caulerpa taxifolia Spread?

The aquarium strain of C. taxifolia was discovered in the tropical aquarium at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart and further bred by exposure to chemicals and ultraviolet light.

The zoo distributed the strain to other aquaria, including the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

The strain can survive out of water for up to 10 days in moist conditions, and 1 cm fragments can produce viable plants.

What Makes Caulerpa taxifolia an Invasive Species?

Caulerpa taxifolia is considered an invasive species outside its native range. It can thrive in heavily polluted waters, which may contribute to its spread in the Mediterranean Sea.

This species is listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species compiled by the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group.

How Has Caulerpa taxifolia Affected the Mediterranean Sea?

The presence of C. taxifolia in the Mediterranean was first reported in 1984 near the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

The strain is believed to have been accidentally released by the museum.

By 1999, scientists agreed that it was no longer possible to eliminate C. taxifolia from the Mediterranean.

Some studies found that beds of Posidonia oceanica in the Bay of Menton were not negatively affected by C. taxifolia.

Other studies showed that fish diversity and biomass were equal or greater in Caulerpa meadows than in seagrass beds and that Caulerpa had no effect on the composition or richness of fish species.

What Is the Impact of Caulerpa taxifolia in Australia?

In Australia, a native bivalve mollusk species was negatively affected by the presence of C. taxifolia.

However, the effect was not necessarily different from that of native seagrass species.

Another study indicated that detritus from C. taxifolia negatively impacted abundance and species richness.

What Happened when Caulerpa Ttxifolia Was Found in California?

When Caulerpa taxifolia was found in waters near San Diego, California in 2000, chlorine bleach was used in efforts to eradicate the strain.

The strain was declared eradicated from Agua Hedionda Lagoon in 2006.

California passed a law in 2001 forbidding the possession, sale, transport, or release of Caulerpa taxifolia within the state.

The Mediterranean clone of C. taxifolia was listed as a noxious weed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, prohibiting the interstate sale and transport of the strain without a permit.

What Are Other Negative Effects of Caulerpa taxifolia?

Caulerpa taxifolia may become entangled in fishing gear and boat propellers, causing problems for fishermen and boaters.

How Can Caulerpa taxifolia Be Controlled?

Caulerpa taxifolia can be controlled through mechanical removal, poisoning with chlorine, or the application of salt.

Researchers at the University of Nice investigated the possible use of a sea slug species, Elysia subornata, as a natural control method.

However, they found that it was not suitable for use in the Mediterranean due to cold winter water temperatures and insufficient population density.

You can check out what this plant looks like over here.

Caulerpa taxifolia Characteristics

Care Level:Easy
Growth Rate:Fast
Nutrient Uptake:Excellent
Required Lighting:Moderate
Required Water Flow:Low Moderate
Is Palatable?No
Maximum Size:10 in (25.4 cm)

Scientific Classification

Scientific Name:Caulerpa taxifolia
Conservation Status:Unknown

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