Considering the importance of population genetic studies to better understand the distribution of marine benthic algae along the Brazilian coast, we selected as a model species Gracilaria caudata, one of the most important natural sources of agar in Brazil. The knowledge already obtained regarding the physiological and genetic differences between individuals within populations allows to emphasize the importance of conducting an accurate mapping of diversity and genetic structure of the species, which would permit the definition of critical areas for possible conservation programs. Previous studies with the species made it possible to identify geographical structuring for populations along the Brazilian coast, indicating the existence of a possible genetic barrier influenced by environmental factors. The two groups found have as limits the states of Bahia and Pernambuco, a region that is part of the underwater volcanic chain called Vitória-Trindade, which also includes the mouth of the São Francisco River. However, populations in the states of Alagoas and Sergipe were not previously sampled. In addition, in the Southeast region only two populations were sampled (Espírito Santo and São Paulo), which does not include the population located at the Southernmost extreme of the species distribution (Santa Catarina). In the current project we intend to: i, genetic recognize populations of G. caudata considered transitional between the two previously identified groups and relate their occurrence with possible current geographical barriers such as rivers and/or mountain ranges; ii, investigate new regions of genetic discontinuity along the coast; and iii, verify through physiological parameters if geographically close populations, within the transition zone between the two genetic groups of G. caudata, have different characteristics.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: