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LaJeunesse wins prize for best paper

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A paper from the lab of Todd LaJeunesse was recognized as the best paper in Phycologia in 2014 and earned the authors the Tyge Christensen Prize. The paper stood out among the 59 papers published in Phycologia in 2014 based on scientific significance, originality of the subject matter or techniques, comprehensiveness and clarity of presentation.

Ecologically differentiated stress-tolerant endosymbionts in the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium (Dinophyceae) Clade D are different species

Todd C. LaJeunesse, Drew C. Wham, D. Tye Pettay, John Everett Parkinson, Shashank Keshavmurthy and Chaolun Allen Chen. phycologia (2014) Volume 53(4), 305-314. Published 12 June 2014.

From the journal:
Reef-building corals contain dense populations of 'morphologically cryptic' dinoflagellates assigned to the genus Symbiodinium. Despite their fundamental role in coral reef ecosystems, the lack of recognition or incorrect assignment of species boundaries has hindered progress in basic understanding of coral-dinoflagellate symbioses. Given the degradation and extent of loss of coral reefs throughout the world, it is crucial that we know the biology of the corals in order to be able to better understand the factors affecting their resilience to climate change.

In this work, the authors undertook an integrative genetics approach to resolve the taxonomic boundaries in Clade D Symbiokinium, on of numerous genetically divergent lineages of these symbionts. As predicted, the clade was made up of a number of different taxa, each exhibiting difference in ecology and physiology, and three new species were described.

This is an elegant study that is neatly illustrated, throughfully written and addresses several important aspects within phycology. As not firmlly established in the algae, it demonstrates that cryptic species are only revealed by molecular phylogenetic work. The study also investigates the previously poorly known Clade D within the genus Symbiodinium as well as incorporating ecological aspects that help in understanding the evolutionary pressures that have driven speciation within algal symbionts of coral animals. The work overall leaves us with a much better understanding of the diversity of these organisms and should provide the impetus for further studies of this kind.