Morphology, mating system and taxonomy of Volvox africanus (Volvocaceae, Chlorophyceae) from Thailand

Bot Stud. 2022 Jan 21;63(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s40529-022-00332-1.


Background: The oogamous green algal genus Volvox exhibits extensive diversity in mating systems, including heterothallism and homothallism with unisexual (male and/or female) and/or bisexual spheroids. Although four mating systems have been recognized worldwide in strains identified as "Volvox africanus", most of these strains are extinct. However, we previously rediscovered two types of the four mating systems (heterothallic, and homothallic with male and bisexual spheroids within a clone) from an ancient Japanese lake, Lake Biwa.

Results: Here, we obtained strains exhibiting the third mating system (homothallic with unisexual male and female spheroids within a clone) from a freshwater area of Kalasin Province, Thailand. When sexual reproduction was induced in the present Thai strains, both male and female unisexual spheroids developed to form smooth-walled zygotes within a clonal culture. Phylogenetic analyses of the internal transcribed spacer region-2 of nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences from all four mating systems, including the extinct strains, resolved the third mating system is basal or paraphyletic within the homothallic clade.

Conclusions: The present morphological and molecular data of the Thai strains indicate that they belong to the homothallic species V. africanus. The phylogenetic results suggested that third mating system (homothallic with separate male and female sexual spheroids) may represent an initial evolutionary stage of transition from heterothallism to homothallism within Volvox africanus. Further field collections in geologically stable intracontinental regions may be fruitful for studying diversity and taxonomy of the freshwater green algal genus Volvox.