BIOTIC Species Information for Laminaria hyperborea
Click here to view the MarLIN Key Information Review for Laminaria hyperborea
Researched byDr Harvey Tyler-Walters Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byDr Joanna Jones
Scientific nameLaminaria hyperborea Common nameTangle or cuvie
MCS CodeZR351 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumChromophycota Subphylum
Superclass ClassPhaeophyceae
Subclass OrderLaminariales
Suborder FamilyLaminariaceae
GenusLaminaria Specieshyperborea

Additional InformationOther common names include, redware, cuvy, sea rod, mayweed or Slat mara. The new blade grows below the older from November onwards. The old blade is shed in spring and early summer. Blade and stipe vary with exposure and current. In sheltered conditions the blade has few or no digits and the stipe becomes thin but in exposed conditions the blade is deeply digitate and the stipe becomes thick. The stipe is usually up to 1m long but stipes up to 3m long have been recorded (Parke unpublished, cited in Kain, 1971a).
Taxonomy References Howson & Picton, 1997, Guiry, 2000, Lüning, 1990,
General Biology
Growth formForest
Straplike / Ribbonlike
Feeding methodPhotoautotroph
Mobility/MovementPermanent attachment
Environmental positionEpilithic
Typical food typesNot relevant HabitAttached
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityHigh (>45 degrees)
FragilityRobust SizeLarge(>50cm)
Height Growth Rate0.94 cm/day
Adult dispersal potentialNone DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationThe adult plant exhibits no gender but the gametophytes are dioecious. The approximate size of male and female gametophytes are given.

The growth rate during maximal growth is reported.
Adults grow rapidly until about 5 years old. Peak growth occurs during winter (November to June) and stops in summer initiated by a photoperiodic response to day length. The total carbon content of canopy lamina is reported to vary with season reflecting a change in carbohydrate storage (Sjøtun, 1996). Carbon content is high in the summer and autumn and starts to decrease in winter with the onset of growth. The old blade is replaced by a new blade formed between the meristem (top of stripe) and the old blade. Nutrients from the old blade contribute to growth. The old blade is shed in spring to early summer.
In Laminaria hyperborea, the proportion of growth allocated to various regions of the plant is reported to vary with both the age of the plant and its habitat (Sjøtun & Fredriksen, 1995). The proportion of growth allocated to the stipe and hapteron, for instance, increases with exposure, the latter probably helping the plant to remain attached and help it to survive in exposed localities (Sjøtun & Fredriksen, 1995). In one year old plants however, growth mainly occurred in the lamina in order to maximize the area for photosynthesis in the light limited understory.

Biology References Lüning, 1990, Birkett et al., 1998b, Kain, 1979, Jones & Kain, 1967, Kain et al., 1975, Wilkinson, 1995, Sjøtun et al., 1996, Sjøtun & Fredriksen, 1995,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandFound on most coasts of Britain and Ireland. Scarce along the south east coast of Britain due to a lack of suitable substrata.
Global distributionRestricted to the north east Atlantic from the northern coast of Iceland, north to the Russian coast near Murmansk and south to Cape Mondego, mid-Portugal including Norway, Faroes, northern France and northern Spain but absent from the Bay of Biscay.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth rangeExtreme low water to 47m although usually to ca 30m
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationLaminaria hyperborea is not found in areas influenced by sediment (e.g. sand) scour. Laminaria hyperborea is absent is areas of extreme wave action or currents (e.g. surge gullies) since the stiff stipe is likely to snap or holdfasts tear off. It is also absent from sheltered areas. The upper limit of its distribution may be depressed by wave action, e.g. in St Kilda its upper limit is several metres below MLWS (Birkett et al., 1998b). High irradiances (comparable to direct sunlight) reduce photosynthesis in Laminaria hyperborea, which may explain its absence from intertidal rock pools, where it is replaced by %Laminaria digitata% (Kain et al., 1975). The lower limit of Laminaria hyperborea is determined by light penetration except in the presence of grazing e.g. by Echinus in the Isle of Man (Jones & Kain, 1967; Kain et al. 1974). The lower limit for Laminarians is generally considered to be about 1 percent of surface irradiance (Luning, 1990; Birkett et al., 1998b).

Substratum preferencesBedrock
Large to very large boulders
Artificial (e.g. metal/wood/concrete)
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Strait / sound
Ria / Voe
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneUpper Infralittoral
Lower Infralittoral
Wave exposureVery Exposed
Moderately Exposed
Tidal stream strength/Water flowModerately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
SalinityFull (30-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional Information
Distribution References Lüning, 1990, Norton, 1985, Birkett et al., 1998b, JNCC, 1999, Picton & Costello, 1998, Jones & Kain, 1967, Kain et al., 1975, Erwin et al., 1990, Hardy & Guiry, 2003,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeVegetative
Developmental mechanismSpores (sexual / asexual)
Reproductive SeasonSeptember to April Reproductive Location
Reproductive frequencyAnnual protracted Regeneration potential No
Life span11-20 years Age at reproductive maturity3-5 years
Generation time3-5 years FecundityIn excess of 1,000,000
Egg/propagule sizeZoospores ca 5µm across Fertilization typeExternal
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potential1km-10km Larval settlement periodCan be all year round (see additional information)
Duration of larval stage1 day   
Reproduction Preferences Additional Information
  • Laminaria hyperborea is a perennial and lives for up to 20 years. Longevity is thought to be higher in its northern distribution (Sjøtun et al., 1993).
  • Spores are produced from sori over most of the blade surface (except most distal or proximal areas) over 6-7 weeks in winter (September - April) (Kain, 1975). Most young sporophytes (germlings) appear in spring but can appear all year round depending on conditions (Birkett et al., 1998b).
  • Laminarians exhibit alternation of generations and morphologically distinct reproductive phases.
  • The obvious plant is the sporophyte (diploid) producing vast numbers of meiotic haploid zoospores from 'sori'.
  • The flagellated zoospores are about 5 microns in diameter (Sauvageau, 1918; cited in Kain, 1979) and may be transported at least 5 km from the parent (Jónsson, 1972, cited in Norton, 1992). They lose their flagella after 24 hrs (Kain, 1964) and settle on the available substrata. However, settling rate is dependant on the local currents, therefore larval settling time is probably longer than 1 day (Fredriksen et al., 1995).
  • The zoospores develop into microscopic dioecious gametophytes. These become fertile in 10 days in optimal conditions.
  • Male gametophytes release motile sperm that fertilize eggs of female gametophytes and the resultant zygote develops into the new sporophyte. Mass and rapid sperm release was initiated by adding a drop of sea water, into which female Laminaria hyperborea gametophytes had released eggs, to the male gametophyte culture medium, suggesting the eggs produce pheromones which induce the release of and attract the sperm (Lüning & Müller, 1978).
  • Maturation of the gametophytes can be delayed under less optimal conditions and development remains vegetative. For example, Lüning (1980) reported that fertility, the induction of fertilization in male and female gametophytes, depended on a critical quantum dose of blue light. Fragments of damaged vegetative gametophytes may develop into separate gametophytes (only a few cells are required) hence reproductive potential may be increased. If optimal conditions return the gametophyte may become fertile and produce gametes.
  • Spore production may be inhibited by epifauna such as Membranipora membranacea (sea mat) and endophytes such as Streblonema sp. (Kain, 1975b).
Reproduction References Lüning, 1990, Birkett et al., 1998b, Lein et al., 1991, Kain, 1979, Dieck, 1993, Guiry & Blunden, 1991, Norton, 1992, Lüning, 1980, Lüning & Müller, 1978, Kain, 1975b, Sjøtun et al., 1993,
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