Mediterranean clone of caulerpa USDA PLANTS SYMBOL: CATA5
Caulerpa taxifolia (Vahl) C. Agardth

Caulerpa taxifolia Mediterranean Clone, aka “Killer Algae” is a marine alga with bright green, pinnate fern-like fronds from 2-26 in. (5-65 cm) long that extend upward from horizontal stolons. The stolons can grow to 10 ft. (3 m) long and attach to underwater surfaces such as rocks, mud, or sand via root-like rhizoids. The non-invasive form of Caulerpa taxifolia is native to the Caribbean, Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea. A clone of the species was cultured for display at the Stuttgart Aquarium in Germany and provided to aquariums in France and Monaco. It either escaped from or was released from an aquarium into the Mediterranean Sea in 1984 where it spread rapidly, densely blanketing thousands of acres of underwater surfaces. Populations of the invasive Mediterranean aquarium strain were discovered in 2000 in California and threaten native kelp and eelgrass meadows. The invasive clone is genetically distinct from the native (DNA tests are necessary to distinguish them) and it tolerates cooler water, grows more rapidly, and grows at greater depth than the native species. Once established, this alga becomes the dominant species, altering native algal and marine animal communities. There is no sexual reproduction; propagation is purely vegetative. Half-inch long stem and stolon fragments can grow into new algae. These fragments are easily transported by boating and fishing activities. Infestations negatively affect tourism, commercial fishing, and recreational activities. The invasive clone was designated in 1999 as a prohibited species under the Federal Noxious Weed Act. Its current distribution includes Croatia, France, Italy, Monaco, Spain (Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea), Australia and the United States.

Identification, Biology, Control and Management Resources