NEWPORT, Ore. – An Oregon State University researcher analyzing debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami has discovered two new species of red algae – one that attaches to plastic debris, the other is found only on glass.

The new species on plastic first arrived with tsunami debris and was given the name Tsunamia transpacifica. The species on glass has not yet been named. Scientists says they are not yet sure if either species actually originated in Asia, but both showed up on debris in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Gayle Hansen, an algal taxonomist at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, said that both appear as a pink crust on debris items. The new species were first recognized during her studies of Japanese algae that washed ashore in Oregon and Washington aboard tsunami debris.

Hansen’s study of the new crustose red algae is being done in collaboration with scientists from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The researchers are particularly interested in determining the geographic origin of the species, though that may be difficult since both are new to science and unknown on either Pacific coast.

The new species also are new genera – a biological classification between species and family – and are members of a primitive red algal class, Stylonematophyceae. Hansen is particularly interested in finding more material of the species on glass. To date, it has been found on floating glass balls, vodka bottles and discarded fluorescent tubes.

“Since the species is new, we are looking to see how widespread it may be and what possible impacts it may have,” Hansen said.

She suggests that beachcombers who may see glass items with a pink crust send her a photo via email to [email protected].

Hatfield Marine Science Center

About OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center: The center is a research and teaching facility located in Newport, Ore., on the Yaquina Bay estuary, about one mile from the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. It plays an integral role in programs of marine and estuarine research and instruction, as a laboratory serving resident scientists, as a base for far-ranging oceanographic studies and as a classroom for students. In addition to Oregon State researchers and students, its campus includes research activities and facilities from five different state and federal agencies.

Story By: 

Mark Floyd, 541-737-0788, [email protected]


Gayle Hansen, 541-867-5012, [email protected]


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