Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

Clinton J. Dawes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan S. Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David A. Tomasko, Ph.D.


seagrass, rhizome growth, long shoot meristem, plastochrone interval, planting unit size


Thalassia testudinum Banks and Solander ex König is the dominant seagrass in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and the West Coast of Florida, yet little rhizome elongation, new short shoot production, or new rhizome meristem production data has been collected via direct measurement. A study of the rhizome growth of T. testudinum was completed in December 2004 in southern Tampa Bay that determined growth after 26.5 months. Two PVC planting frames each containing four rhizomes with 2 short shoots, two rhizomes with 4 short shoots, and two rhizomes with 8 short shoots were planted next to existing T. testudinum beds at 5 sites (n = 10 planting frames). The rhizome apical meristem was removed from half of each set of short shoot units on each planting frame. Plants initially lacking a rhizome meristem produced more new long shoot meristems than those planted with an intact meristem, and larger planting units produced more new rhizome meristems than smaller ones, P = 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively.

The total number of rhizome meristems per planting unit (new meristems + initial meristem) was greater in plantings initially lacking a long shoot meristem in the 2, 4 and 8 short shoot size classes. Only the two short shoot plants benefited from an intact rhizome meristem at planting time, elongating 66.4 cm versus 60.4 cm for plants initially lacking a rhizome meristem at 26.5 months. In the 4 and 8 short shoot classes, plants that

lacked a rhizome meristem at planting outpaced those with a meristem, producing 192.1 and 277.9 for 4 and 8 short shoot plants compared to 120.9 cm and 177.7 cm for plants with a meristem during the same time period. The greatest growth rate increases were due to lateral branching on planting units that lacked a rhizome meristem in the two largest size classes (4 and 8 short shoots); the differences between plants with an intact rhizome meristem and those without with the size classes pooled did not prove to be statistically different, P = 0.112. Differences among the size classes were significant, however, P < 0.001. Analysis of new short shoots was analogous to the results for rhizome elongation, with the presence of an initial rhizome factor proving insignificant, P = 0.401, and the initial number of short shoots factor proving significant, P < 0.001.

The rhizome growth, new short shoot production, and new rhizome meristem production data determined by direct measurements in this study appear to be the first planting unit measurements for this species under natural conditions.