Phylogenetic relationships and revision of the genus Blastomussa (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Scleractinia) with description of a new species

Francesca Benzoni, Roberto Arrigoni, Zarinah Waheed, Fabrizio Stefani, Bert W. Hoeksema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The Indo-Pacific coral genus Blastomussa (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Scleractinia) includes three species, i.e., B. merleti, B. wellsi, and B. loyae. Following the re-examination of relevant type material, other museum specimens, and the study of newly sampled corals, the genus is revised and the new species B. vivida is described. The new species differs from its congeners by being encrusting, having coralla with a cerioid corallite arrangement and much larger corallites. In vivo, the expanded polyp mantle is fleshy and characterised by bright, vivid colours. Specimens were sampled in New Caledonia, northern Papua New Guinea, Sabah (northern Malaysia), Brunei Darussalam and the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Additional records from Southeast Asia and the western Pacific were obtained through the study of museum collections and published illustrations of living animals in situ: Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, and Australia. The new species appears widespread and has so far been misidentified as B. wellsi, which has smaller corallites, less septa, and a phaceloid corallite arrangement. The phylogenetic relationships within the genus Blastomussa and with other genera were investigated by analyses of their nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. These other genera are Parasimplastrea, Plerogyra, Physogyra, all currently incertae sedis in the Robust clade of Scleractinia as a result of molecular coral systematics, and Nemenzophyllia, whose phylogenetic position is examined for the first time. Representatives of all these genera are characterised by fleshy polyps with well-developed and expandable mantles. They are all closely related and form a strongly supported clade. The results of the molecular analyses provide evidence for Blastomussa's monophyly and show that the new B. vivida is a distinct species, which is most closely related to B. wellsi. Furthermore, the only known extant species of the genus Parasimplastrea appears to be embedded within the Blastomussa clade, thus prompting its taxonomic revision. Because Blastomussa is closely related to the monospecific Nemenzophyllia, the affinities of their polyp and corallite morphology are discussed. Although polyp morphology and molecular data suggest that Blastomussa, Plerogyra, Physogyra, and Nemenzophyllia could constitute a new scleractinian family, the macro and micromorphology of their skeletons need to be examined before a family diagnosis can be formulated. © National University of Singapore.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-378
Number of pages21
JournalRaffles Bulletin of Zoology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-10-08
Acknowledgements: Collecting in New Caledonia was possible thanks to IRD Noumea and, in particular, to C. Payri, J.L. Menou, J. Butscher, E. Folcher and the RV ALIS captain and crew during the missions CORALCAL 1 and CORALCAL 4. We are grateful to the Province Sud and Nord of New Caledonia for sampling permits. The Niugini Biodiversity Expedition and P. Bouchet (MNHN) are acknowledged for allowing collection of specimens from Papua New Guinea. The first author is also deeply grateful to C. Payri and B. Dreyfus (IRD) for supporting her participation to this campaign. Collection in Saudi Arabia during the KAUST Biodiversity Cruise 1 was possible thanks to M. Berumen (KAUST), we are also grateful to J. Baumeester (KAUST) for assistance in the field, and the DREAM MASTER crew for diving logistics. Sampling in Djibouti was possible thanks to the Tara Oceans scientific expedition and the OCEANS Consortium and to the collaboration of A.O. Dini (l'Amenagement du Territoire et de l'Environnement de Djibouti), M. Jalludin and M. Nabil (CERD) and J-F. Breton (IFAR Djibouti). We thank the commitment of the following people and sponsors who made this singular expedition possible: CNRS, EMBL, Genoscope/CEA, VIB, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, UNIMIB, ANR (projects POSEIDON/ANR-09-BLAN-0348, BIOMARKS/ANR-08-BDVA-003, PROMETHEUS/ANR-09-GENM-031, and TARA-GIRUS/ANR-09-PCS-GENM-218), EU FP7 (MicroB3/No.287589), FWO, BIO5, Biosphere 2, agne s b., the Veolia Environment Foundation, Region Bretagne, World Courier, Illumina, Cap L'Orient, the EDF Foundation EDF Diversiterre, FRB, the Prince Albert II de Monaco Foundation, Etienne Bourgois, the Tara schooner and its captain and crew. Tara Oceans would not exist without continuous support from 23 institutes ( This article is contribution number 0014 of the Tara Oceans Expedition 2009-2012. We are grateful in particular to E. Karsenti (EMBL) for allowing reef research during the expedition, to O. Quesnel for help with onsite logistics, to S. Kandels-Lewis (EMBL), and to Captain O. Marien and the TARA crew in general, and to M. Oriot and S. Audrain in particular. We are also indebted to R. Friederich (World Courier) and R. Trouble (Fonds Tara). The O6 team support is greatly acknowledged. The authors wish to thank S.E.T. van der Meij (Naturalis) for helpful discussion and editing suggestions. We thank A. Andouche (MNHN), A. Cabrinovic (BMNH), S. D. Cairns (USNM), B. Done (MTQ), E. Beglinger (ZMA), J. van Egmond (RMNH), K. Johnson (BMNH), M. Lowe (BMNH) and C.C. Wallace (MTQ) for access to museum collections. The second author is grateful to the financial support of the European Commission's Research Infrastructure Action via the Synthesys Programme for his visit to Naturalis. The last author wants to thank D.W.J. Lane (Department of Biology Universiti Brunei Darussalam) for the invitation to join fieldwork in Brunei. The third and last authors both participated in the Tun Mustapha Park Expedition (TMPE) 2012, which was jointly organised by WWF-Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Sabah Parks and Naturalis. TMPE was funded by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and USAID Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP). Research permits in Malaysia were granted by the Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister's Department and Sabah Biodiversity Centre. We also thank Daniela, Andrea, and Diego for their assistance with the Nanodrop 1000. Grazie to E. Reynaud (Adequation & Developpement) for kindly donating part of the laboratory instruments to the ARG for this study.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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