Curacao: A ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’ – genetic diversity

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Lyngbya majuscula - extremely valuable for science. Photograph: Ursula Keuper Bennett & Peter Bennett

The variety of life on Earth can be described in different ways. You can make an inventory of the diversity of individual species as found on an island like Curaçao, but also the genetic diversity between species and even within a single species is important information to take into account. Especially genetic diversity is an important tool in studies aiming to identify specific substances for use in medicines, for example to deploy in the fight against cancer. A good example is a small algae that once lived among the mangrove roots around the entrance to the Spanish Water, of the species Lyngbya majuscula. These blue-green filamentous algae (this is the name for this specific algae family, it’s observable color in the wild is brownish-red) still occur in different places in the sea around the island. However, only the group of algae that lived just inside the entrance to the Spanish water contained a substance which is now part of a scientific study in the United States to be used as a potential new cancer drug. The location where they grew, the site-specific conditions, made ​​the seemingly simple algae invaluable for health care. The group of algae in question is unfortunately no longer there. The construction of a luxurious pier is the cause of the destruction of the mangrove patch in between which prop-roots the algae used to live. A piece of genetic diversity is gone forever and therefore also additional potentially valuable discoveries.

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