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The genus Asterodinium (Dinophyceae) as a possible biological indicator of warming in the Western Mediterranean Sea

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Since 1960, a monotonic increase of the temperature has been recorded in the Mediterranean waters, apparently as a result of the combined global warming and local anthropogenic e¡ects (Be¤ thoux et al., 1990; Turley, 1999). Several studies have shown that the marine biodiversity of the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian basins is sensitive to climate change, with tropical species appearing since 1985 (Francour et al., 1994; Astraldi et al., 1995). However most of the studies on changing biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea, deal with macroscopic species such as ¢sh, invertebrates or macroalgae (Bianchi & Morri, 2000).  During the last century, at least 16 exotic phytoplankton species have become common in European Atlantic waters (Elbra« chter, 1999) with the establishment of thermophilic phytoplankton species in the North Sea (Nehring, 1998). However little is known about changes a¡ecting the phytoplankton community of the Mediterranean Sea.
Asterodinium is a distinctive genus of unarmoured dino£agellates; cells are dorsoventrally £attened, with two characteristic radiating elongate extensions fromthe hypotheca and three other arms from the epitheca; they present a well-developed nucleus and chloroplasts.  The genus was initially reported from the tropical Indian ocean with the description of two species Asterodinium gracile and A. spinosum (Sournia, 1986). Later, Asterodinium gracile and the new species A. libanum were reported in Lebanese coastal waters (easternMediterranean Sea) (Abboud-Abi Saab, 1989).  The present study reports recent records of Asterodinium species in the western Mediterranean Sea and is suggested as possible biological indicator of warming.

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