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Chondracanthus exasperatus - Turkish towel

Geographic range:
Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Maria, Baja California, Mexico

Key features:
It is usually lanceolate in shape (tapering towards both ends). Purple-red in color with extensive bumps (papillae).

Similar species:
Chondracanthus corymbiferus -- Cow's tongue

bay (rocky shore), exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore
Chondracanthus exasperatus - Turkish towel image


Primary common name:
Turkish Towel
  ITIS code:
Synonymous name(s):
Gigartina exasperata, Gigartina californica, Gigartina radula
General grouping:
Red seaweed/algae

Geographic Range
Range description:
Chondracanthus exasperatus lives on the Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Maria, Baja California, Mexico.
Northern latitude extent:
  Southern latitude extent:
East longitude extent:
  West longitude extent:

Intertidal Height
Lowest intertidal height:
-0.6006006 meters OR -2 feet
  Highest intertidal height:
0.15015015 meters OR 0.5 feet
Intertidal height notes:
Chondracanthus exasperatus lives in the mid to low intertidal.

Subtidal Depth Range
Minimum depth:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Maximum depth:
20 meters OR 70 feet
Subtidal depth notes:
Chondracanthus exasperatus lives in the subtidal to 20 m in depth.

bay (rocky shore), exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore
Habitat notes:
Chondracanthus exasperatus grows on rocks in the intertidal and subtidal zones in wave sheltered and exposed areas. They are commonly found between 5 and 10 m depth, but can live as deep as 20 m.

Relative abundance:
Chondracanthus exasperatus is common on rocks in the middle intertidal to subtidal.

Species Description
General description:
Chondracanthus exasperatus is a red alga in the Division Rhodophyta, assigned to all red algae. It is in the diverse Order Gigarinaceae in the Class Rhodophyceae in the Family Chondracanthus. Up until recently it was in the family Gigartinaceae and referred to as Gigartina exasperate. The family Chondracanthus was recently introduced as part of a larger effort to reclassify the Gigartinales.
Distinctive features:
Chondracanthus exasperatus has one or more large, broad, thick blades that are commonly 30 — 50 cm tall and 10 — 20 cm wide, though they can grow to 1 m tall and 30 cm wide. The blades are purplish-red, but when submerged, they exhibit a striking bluish iridescence. The blade shape usually tapers towards each end. The distinguishing feature of this alga is that both sides of the blades are covered with numerous protuberances, called papillae, which are associated with reproductive structures. These dense papillae give the blade the appearance of a thick bath towel, bestowing the species its common name Turkish Towel. The blades arise from a small stipe that is sometimes branched and the whole plant attaches itself to the substrate by means of a disc shaped holdfast. The holdfast may vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter.

Three varieties of Chondracanthus exasperatus have been identified and distinguished according to blade morphology. In the northern parts of its range, the blades have extremely irregular edges. Central California individuals have very thick blades and are often found in close proximity, even at times overlapping with other specimens. The southern specimens are instead more widely spaced.
Chondracanthus exasperatus can grow to 1 m tall and 30 cm wide, but is more commonly 30 — 50 cm tall and 10 — 20 cm wide.

Natural History
General natural history:
Chondracanthus exasperatus, like all red alga, contains chlorophyll as well as the pigments phycocyanin and phycoerythrin, the latter two which give this group their red coloration. It also contains the accessory pigments phycocyanin and phycoerythrin which are specialized to absorb filtered light and to absorb light at lower levels. These accessory pigments allow Chondracanthus exasperatus to grow in deeper waters than many other intertidal algae. This species is furthermore often associated with kelp forests, which block much of the available light. The maximum growth rate of Chondracanthus exasperatus occurs at about 3 m depth and the maximum growth season is between March and September. The limiting factor for this alga’s distribution is usually the amount and distribution of suitable substrate.

Chondracanthus exasperatus cells contain a seaweed gum called carrageenan. Carrageenan is a useful emulsifier that is used as a thickener in ice creams, chocolate milk and cottage cheese since it gels in the presence of calcium ions. It is also used in pasta, pet food, pancake syrup, and toothpaste.
Tegula snails prey on Chondracanthus exasperatus.
Chondracanthus exasperatus nourishes itself through photosynthesis, converting the energy of light to the energy of carbohydrate molecules.

Feeding behavior
Feeding behavior(s):
Feeding behavior notes:
January - December  
The reproductive cycle of Chondracanthus exasperatus is described as an isomorphic alternating generations life cycle. Isomorphic means same form and implies that the gametophytes and sporophytes look the same.

Abbott, I.A., and G.J. Hollenberg. 1976. Marine Algae of California. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 827 p.

Lake, Devon. 1999 (Updated 03/23/06). Marine Botany, Chondracanthus exasperatus. World Wide Web electronic publication., Accessed [08/23/06].

Mondragon, J. 2003. Seaweeds of the Pacific Coast: common marine algae from Alaska to Baja California. Sea Challengers, Monterey, CA. 97 p.

Mumford, T.F., and J.R. Waaland. 1980. Progress and prospects for field cultivation of Iridaea cordata and Gigartina exasperata. Pacific seaweed aquaculture, Proceedings of a symposium on useful algae.

Ocean Link. 2006. Seaweeds. World Wide Web electronic publication., Accessed [08/07/06].

O\'Clair, R.M. 2000. North Pacific Seaweeds. Plant Press, Auke Bay, Alaska. 162 p.

Ricketts, E. F., J. Calvin, and J.W. Hedgpeth. 1985. Between Pacific tides. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA. 652 p.

Waaland, R. 1977. Common Seaweeds of the Pacific Coast. Pacific Search Press, Seattle, Washington. 120 p.

Data supplied by SIMoN Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Anthopleura xanthogrammica - Giant green anemone

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