In the last years, our research group has been involved in several projects regarding the identification and the characterization of plant organisms, using MOLECULAR TECHNIQUES besides a more CLASSICAL APPROACH. The necessity of this type of studies arose both from purely systematic questions and on behalf of privates or public institutions. The organisms considered in our researches range from CYANOBACTERIA and MICROALGAE to SEAWEEDS and, only recently, PLANTS.
Classical approach and techniques: Traditional algal classification is based on morphological characters, such as detailed aspects of vegetative and reproductive anatomy. Light microscope allows a preview of the organisms, as well as surveys on their life cycles and reproductive systems. Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) give further information on three-dimensional and ultrastructural aspects. Biochemical analyses (e.g. pigments, fatty acids, polysaccharides) can help to further characterize algal taxa.
Molecular approach: Phylogenetic analyses, based on different molecular markers, allow the reconstruction of evolutionary relationships among groups of organisms at different taxonomic levels and the detection of new taxa (e.g. new species). The recent and widespread DNA barcoding method is used to unambiguously identify specimens at the genus and species level, also in the case of cryptic forms or groups with high phenotypic plasticity.