Species delimitation in the reef coral genera Echinophyllia and Oxypora (Scleractinia, Lobophylliidae) with a description of two new species

Roberto Arrigoni, Michael L. Berumen, Chaolun Allen Chen, Tullia Isotta Terraneo, Andrew H. Baird, Claude Payri, Francesca Benzoni

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44 Scopus citations


Scleractinian corals are affected by environment-induced phenotypic plasticity and intraspecific morphological variation caused by genotype. In an effort to identify new strategies for resolving this taxonomic issue, we applied a molecular approach for species evaluation to two closely related genera, Echinophyllia and Oxypora, for which few molecular data are available. A robust multi-locus phylogeny using DNA sequence data across four loci of both mitochondrial (COI, ATP6-NAD4) and nuclear (histone H3, ITS region) origin from 109 coral colonies was coupled with three independent putative species delimitation methods based on barcoding threshold (ABGD) and coalescence theory (PTP, GMYC). Observed overall congruence across multiple genetic analyses distinguished two traditional species (E. echinoporoides and O. convoluta), a species complex composed of E. aspera, E. orpheensis, E. tarae, and O. glabra, whereas O. lacera and E. echinata were indistinguishable with the sequenced loci. The combination of molecular species delimitation approaches and skeletal character observations allowed the description of two new reef coral species, E. bulbosa sp. n. from the Red Sea and E. gallii sp. n. from the Maldives and Mayotte. This work demonstrated the efficiency of multi-locus phylogenetic analyses and recently developed molecular species delimitation approaches as valuable tools to disentangle taxonomic issues caused by morphological ambiguities and to re-assess the diversity of scleractinian corals. (C) 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-159
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Sep 9 2016

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): URF/1/1389-01-01, FCC/1/1973-07
Acknowledgements: The authors are grateful to the three anonymous reviewers for their help and constructive comments. This project was supported by funding from KAUST (award # URF/1/1389-01-01, FCC/1/1973-07, and baseline research funds to ML Berumen). 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. We wish to thank the captain and crew of the MV Dream Master, the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab, Malek Amr Gusti, and TH Sinclair-Taylor (KAUST). RA gratefully acknowledges the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) for his participation to Summer Program in Taiwan 2013, JD DiBattista (CURTIN) and P Saenz-Agudelo (UACH) for their assistance at KAUST, and D Maggioni (UNIMIB) for his stimulating conversations concerning species delimitation methods. A big grazie to P Galli (UNIMIB) for allowing coral collections in the Maldives at MaRHE Center, and to S Montano and D Seveso (UNIMIB) for their fieldwork support, grazie ragazzi. We are grateful to E Karsenti (EMBL) and E Bougois (Tara Expeditions), the OCEANS Consortium for allowing sampling during the Tara Oceans expedition in Djibouti, Gambier Islands, and Mayotte. We thank the commitment of the following people and additional 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, agnes 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 (http://oceans.taraexpeditions.org). This article is contribution number 45 of the Tara Oceans Expedition 2009-2012. New Caledonia data and specimens were obtained during the CORAL-CAL4 (http://dx.doi.org/10.17600/12100060), BIBELOT (http://dx.doi.org/10.17600/14003700), and CORALCAL5 (http://dx.doi.org/10.17600/15004300) expeditions on the RV Alis. The Madang expedition specimens were obtained during the


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