If you're a fan of marine life, you might be interested to know that a new genus of seaweed has been described from the Philippines.
Mimica is a new genus of red algae that was recently described by Filipino seaweed taxonomist, Dr. Wilfred John Santiañez, and Dr. Michael J. Wynne of the University of Michigan Herbarium.
“I just thought it was an interesting story that this red alga looks so much like an animal, namely, a coral. It had been unnoticed as such, and then it turned out to have some distinctive features,” said Michael Wynne, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology. “It had originally been described and assigned to the red alga Eucheuma. In recent decades, gene sequencing studies have allowed us to better recognize the relationships of families and genera. Such evidence supported the recognition of this species in a separate new genus.” Over his career, Wynne has described more than three dozen new genera of marine algae from all over the world.
What makes Mimica so fascinating is its ability to imitate corals. Mimica arnoldii, the type species of the genus, has been observed to resemble both hard and soft corals in order to avoid being eaten by herbivorous fish. Mimica's ability to resemble corals is still a mystery. Still, it is considered an adaptation that helps the seaweed avoid being consumed by fish that prefer seaweed as their source of food and nutrition.
Aside from its impressive mimicry skills, Mimica also produces carrageenan, a commercially important natural product with a wide range of applications in the food industry. Carrageenan is a type of hydrocolloid commonly used as a thickener, stabilizer, and gelling agent in various food products. Mimica is relatively common in tropical reefs where hard and soft corals are found. So, if you're ever diving or snorkeling in the Philippines, Indonesia, or parts of Japan, keep an eye out for this fascinating seaweed!