Morphology and molecules reveal two new species of Porites (Scleractinia, Poritidae) from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden

Tullia Isotta Terraneo, Francesca Benzoni, Andrew H. Baird, Roberto Arrigoni, Michael L. Berumen

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12 Scopus citations


Two new reef coral species, Porites farasani sp. nov. and Porites hadramauti sp. nov. (Scleractinia, Poritidae), are described from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Porites farasani sp. nov. only occurs in the Farasan Islands in the southern Red Sea, while P. hadramauti sp. nov. has been collected in the Yemen Hadramaut region in the Gulf of Aden. Both species presented striking in situ differences with respect to other Porites species, and were characterized by small encrusting colonies and unusual polyp colouration. In order to test the genetic distinctiveness of P. farasani sp. nov. and P. hadramauti sp. nov. between each other and with respect to other representatives in the genus Porites, we investigated their evolutionary relationships with eight other morphological species of Porites occurring in the Red Sea and in the Gulf of Aden. Two DNA loci, the mitochondrial putative control region and the nuclear ribosomal ITS region, were sequenced, and three species delimitation approaches based on barcoding threshold (Automated Barcoding Gap Discovery) and coalescence theory (Poisson-Tree process, Generalized Mixed Yule Coalescent) were applied. Phylogenetic and species delimitation analyses were overall concordant, resolving P. farasani sp. nov. and P. hadramauti sp. nov. as two divergent but closely related lineages. Of the other morphologically defined Porites species, three were genetically differentiated (P. rus, P. columnaris and P. fontanesii), but five were genetically indistinguishable. The discovery of two regional endemics confirms the importance of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as regions of high biodiversity and suggests the need for an integration of genome-wide molecular data with the re-evaluation of skeletal structures in the systematics of Porites.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-508
Number of pages18
JournalSystematics and Biodiversity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 4 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): award # URF/1/1389–01–01, FCC/1/1973–07
Acknowledgements: This research was undertaken in accordance with the policies and procedures of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Permissions relevant for KAUST to undertake the research have been obtained from the applicable governmental agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This project was supported by funding from KAUST (award # URF/1/1389–01–01, FCC/1/1973–07, and baseline research funds to M. L. Berumen) and from James Cook University (baseline research funds to A. H. Baird). We wish to thank the captain and crew of the MV Dream Master, the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Laboratory, and A. K. Gusti (KAUST) for fieldwork logistics in the Red Sea. The authors are grateful to E. Dutrieux (CREOCEAN), C.H. Chaineau (Total SA), R. Hirst, and M. AbdulAziz (YLNG) for allowing and supporting research in Yemen. Fieldwork in Yemen would not have been possible without the permission of the following ministries: Ministry of Oil and Minerals, Ministry of Transports (Maritime Affairs Authority), Ministry of Fish Wealth, and Ministry of Water and Environment (Environmental Protection Authority). We wish to thank S. Basheen (Professional Divers Yemen) for logistic support, and A. Suliman and F.N. Saeed (EPA Socotra) for their assistance with our research in Socotra. Coral collecting in Yemen was performed in collaboration with M. Pichon (MTQ), C. Riva, S. Montano (MaRHE Center–UNIMIB), and A. Caragnano (UNIVPM). The views expressed are purely those of the writers and may not in any circumstance be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.


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