The taxonomic status and species diversity of the brown algal genus Padina (Dictyotales, Phaeophyceae) was assessed based on DNA sequences and the morpho-anatomy of specimens collected worldwide, especially from tropical and subtropical western Pacific regions. Phylogenetic analyses using chloroplast rbcL and mitochondrial cox3 gene sequences demonstrated four distinct clades for newly collected samples with high bootstrap support. Each species clade possesses a suite of morphological features that are not shared by any known species of Padina. These are P. imbricata sp. nov., Padina lutea sp. nov., P. moffittianoides sp. nov., and P. nitida sp. nov. The occurrence of these and other species of Padina clearly points to an elevated diversity of the genus in tropical/subtropical waters of the western Pacific. Phylogenetic analyses provided new insights into biogeographic characteristics of the genus, with many species in the Pacific Ocean showing shared/overlapping distributions, whereas species from the Mediterranean/Atlantic and/or the Indian Ocean tend to be confined to particular regions. Consideration has also been given to the evolutionary time frame of the genus Padina based on molecular time trees: a time tree of the concatenated data set (rbcL + cox3) revealed the estimated divergence time in the mid-Cretaceous, whereas those of cox3 and rbcL showed older estimates pointing to the periods of mid-Jurassic and Early Cretaceous, respectively.
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