There is a new family of freshwater microalgae. The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Coimbra (UC), in collaboration with the University of Carlos in Prague, the University of Ostrava and the Institute of Soil Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, in the Czech Republic, and the University of Ozarks, in USA.
The study that allowed the identification and description of this new family of microalgae of commercial interest lasted for three years and the results have just been published in the scientific journal Journal of Phycology.
Named Neomonodaceae, this new line of organisms belongs to the class Eustigmatophyceae, “whose biotechnological interest is recognized due to the fact that some species are rich in antioxidants, carotenoids and lipids of nutritional value and of interest for biodiesel. Like other families in the same class, the microalgae genera now discovered have the potential to give rise to compounds of pharmaceutical, cosmetic or aquaculture interest, for example“, explains Raquel Amaral, first author of the published article.
“Microalgae are seen as very promising for the production of compounds of biotechnological value because they are easy to grow and do not require the use of arable land, although still with high production costs“, she underlines.
For this discovery, emphasizes the researcher from the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC), it was essential “the study of microalgae strains kept in culture at the Algoteca de Coimbra (ACOI)”, considered one of the largest collections of microalgae of fresh water in the world. “Seven strains of ACOI contribute to this new genetic lineage of microalgae and constitute two of the new genera. To one of them we attribute the scientific name Munda, a Roman name for the Mondego river, in honor of the river from which most of these algae come from”, she explains.
The study, which is part of the researcher’s doctoral thesis, consisted of “morphological and genetic observation for the phylogenetic determination of 10 new strains, which resulted in the discovery of 3 new genera of this class.The species included in the new family are single-celled organisms, with an elongated shape, most with a “foot” through which they are attached to the substrate. In addition to the genetic differences that originate their segregation from the other families of Eustigmatophyceae, they are distinguished by the absence of a cellular structure called pyrenoid ”, describes Raquel Amaral, pointing out that, in the study of microalgae, genetic-based methods “are crucial, given that they are microscopic organisms and often different species can be very similar”.
Algoteca de Coimbra, installed in the Department of Life Sciences of FCTUC, is coordinated by scientist Lília Santos, one of the authors of this study and supervisor of Raquel Amaral’s doctoral thesis, which was funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT ).