Full Title: Phylogeography of recent Plesiastrea (Scleractinia: Plesiastreidae) based on an integrated taxonomic approach

David J Juszkiewicz, Nicole E White, Jarosław Stolarski, Francesca Benzoni, Roberto Arrigoni, Andrew H. Baird, Bert W Hoeksema, Nerida G Wilson, Michael Bunce, Zoe T Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Scleractinian corals are a diverse group of ecologically important yet highly threatened marine invertebrates, which can be challenging to identify to the species level. An influx of molecular studies has transformed scleractinian systematics, highlighting that cryptic species may be more common than previously understood. In this study, we test the hypothesis that Plesiastrea versipora (Lamarck, 1816), a species currently considered to occur throughout the Indo-Pacific in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters, is a single species. Molecular and morphological analyses were conducted on 80 samples collected from 31 sites spanning the majority of the species putative range and twelve mitogenomes were assembled to identify informative regions for phylogenetic reconstruction. Congruent genetic data across three gene regions supports the existence of two monophyletic clades aligning with distinct tropical and temperate provenances. Multivariate macromorphological analyses based on 13 corallite characters provided additional support for the phylogeographic split, with the number of septa and corallite density varying across this biogeographic divide. Furthermore, micromorphological and microstructural analyses identified that the temperate representatives typically develop sub-cerioid corallites with sparse or absent coenosteal features and smooth septal faces. In contrast, tropical representatives typically develop plocoid corallites separated by a porous dissepimental coenosteum and have granulated septal faces. These data suggest that at least two species exist within the genus PlesiastreaMilne Edwards & Haime, 1848. Based on examination of type material, we retain the name Plesiastrea versipora (Lamarck, 1816) for the temperate representatives of the genus and resurrect the name Plesiastrea peroniMilne Edwards & Haime, 1857 for the tropical members. This study highlights how broadly distributed hard coral taxa still need careful re-examination through an integrated systematics approach to better understand their phylogeographic patterns. Furthermore, it demonstrates the utility of integrating micro-, macro-morphological and genetic datasets, and the importance of type specimens when dealing with taxonomic revisions of scleractinian taxa
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107469
JournalMolecular phylogenetics and evolution
StatePublished - Mar 26 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-04-20
Acknowledgements: This project was funded by an ARC linkage Grant LP160101508, Australian Biological Resources Grant and an Australian Academy of Science Thomas Davies Grant awarded to Z.T. Richards. We thank D. Maggioni (UNIMIB) for collecting samples in the Maldives; M. L. Berumen (KAUST) and D. Huang (NUS) for collection in the Red Sea; G.Soler and the staff from University of Tasmania (UTAS) for collection in the Kent Group, Tasmania, Australia; A. Hara, A. Hosie and O. Gomez for collection in Albany, Western Australia (W.A.); A. Andrews, D. Kimberley and the staff from Monsoon Aquatics for collection in Arlington Reef, Queensland, Australia; and E. Fenny and the staff from W.A. Ocean Park for assistance with collections at Shark Bay, W.A. We thank Z. and Z. Juszkiewicz for funding the W.A., Gnaraloo Bay sampling trip. We thank A. Adam, K. Savill, Ma. Rossen-Abercromby, M. Thiele and R. Hofmann, for assistance with field work. We thank Z. Wysokowska for her illustrations of Plesiastrea based on skeletal samples. From Curtin University; we thank the TrEnD Lab and CORE Group, for their assistance with laboratory work, figure recommendations and moral support; C. Boisvert for her assistance with French translations and microscopy; B. Saunders for his assistance with multivariate data analyses. We thank K. Janiszewska (Institute of Paleobiology, Polish Academy of Sciences) for your help with computed micro-tomography visualization, it is greatly appreciated. We thank N. Carey for her assistance with multivariate analyses and field sampling. We thank T. James for his assistance with morphological data entry. We thank M. Castelin and C. Chambard from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France for photographing the Plesiastrea holotypes. M. Pichon for his help with historical French translations. We thank D. Jones from the Western Australian Museum for her consultation regarding the Baudin Expeditions. We thank I. van Riemsdijk from the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands and A. Dornburg from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for their assistance with the phylogenetic analyses. We thank the following expeditions that resulted in their collection; For the specimens from Yemen: E. Dutrieux (CREOCEAN), C.H. Chaineau (Total SA), R. Hirst and M. AbdulAziz (YLNG) for allowing and supporting our research in Yemen. Thanks to S. Basheen (Professional Divers Yemen), M.A. Ahmad and F.N. Saeed (EPA Socotra). For the material from PNG: The Niugini Biodiversity Expedition, P. Bouchet (MNHN) and B. Dreyfus (IRD) are acknowledged for collections in Papua New Guinea (http://dx.doi.org/10.17600/12100070). The Madang expedition specimens were obtained during the ’Our Planet Reviewed’ Papua Niugini expedition organized by Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN), Pro Natura International (PNI), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), Principal Investigators P. Bouchet, C. Payri and S. Samadi. The organizers acknowledge funding from the Total Foundation, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Foundation EDF, Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Entrepose Contracting, and in-kind support from the Divine Word University (DWU). The expedition operated under a permit delivered by the Papua New Guinea Department of Environment and Conservation. For the specimen from Madagascar: Material from Madagascar was collected during the MAD (https://doi.org/10.17600/16004700) expedition on the RV Antea. We are grateful to the captain and crew; to the chief scientist H. Magalon (ULR). Lastly, the author D.J. Juszkiewicz would like to acknowledge and dedicate his work to his babcia (grandmother) K.Z. Wysokowska, who passed away during the writing of this manuscript

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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