Charophytes are a group of green algae that grow in various types of water ecosystems and are characterized by a high degree of plasticity and morphological variation. To analyze the genetic diversity and taxonomic rank of several species from the genus Chara, the fingerprinting technique of Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) was applied. We studied species that belong to sect. Grovesia (C. tenuispina, C. globularis, C. virgata, C. aspera and C. strigosa) and two species from the sect. Hartmania (C. intermedia and C. hispida). The individuals were collected in the field in north-eastern, central and eastern Poland. The species were identified based on morphological features and then analyzed using the AFLP fingerprinting method. UPGMA clustering and PCA analysis as well as morphological analysis revealed a clear separation of C. tenuispina and C. globularis, which formed separate clusters supported by high bootstrap values. Therefore, these species were distinguish as separate taxa, rather than varieties of C. globularis. Similarly, C. virgata also formed a separate cluster, thereby confirming that this taxon is a separate species, rather than a variety of C. globularis. The AFLP analysis did not show any differentiation between C. aspera and C. strigosa. The presented results do not fully support the taxonomic interpretation for the existence of several polymorphic species with numerous variations and forms, however, in some examples, the distinctive nature of the reproduction system may be used as a distinguishing feature of the taxa.
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