Unexpected diversity and new species in the sponge-Parazoanthidae association in southern Japan

Javier Montenegro, Frederic Sinniger, James Davis Reimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Currently the genera Parazoanthus (family Parazoanthidae) and Epizoanthus (family Epizoanthidae) are the only sponge-associated zoantharians (Cnidaria, Anthozoa). The Parazoanthidae-sponge associations are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical waters from the intertidal to the deep sea in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Oceans. However, the taxonomic identification of both parties is often confused due to variable morphology and wide ecological ranges. In particular, Parazoanthidae species diversity remains poorly understood in the Indo-Pacific. In the present study, the diversity of the sponge-zoanthid association in the Indo-Pacific was investigated with 71 Parazoanthidae specimens collected from 29 different locations in Japan (n= 22), Australia (n= 6) and Florida, USA (n= 1). For all specimens morphological analyses were performed and total DNA was extracted and amplified for four DNA markers (COI-mtDNA, mt 16S-rDNA, ITS-rDNA and ALG11-nuDNA). The combined data demonstrate that the specimens of this study are clearly different from those of all described Parazoanthus species, and lead us to erect Umimayanthus gen. n., within family Parazoanthidae, containing the three newly described species U. chanpuru sp. n., U. miyabi sp. n., U. nakama sp. n. The new genus also includes the previously described species U. parasiticus (Duchassaing and Michelotti, 1860; comb. nov.), previously belonging to the genus Parazoanthus. Neighbor joining, maximum likelihood and Bayesian posterior probability phylogenetic trees clearly demonstrate the monophyly of Umimayanthus gen. n. to the exclusion of all outgroup sequences. The phylogenetic results were also compared to morphological features, and polyp sizes, amount of sand content in tissues, types of connections between polyps, and cnidae data, in particular holotrichs-1, were useful in distinguishing the different species within this new genus. This new genus can be distinguished from all other Zoantharia by a unique and conserved 9. bp insertion and a 14. bp deletion in the mt 16S-rDNA region. Additionally, compared to Parazoanthus sensu stricto (i.e. P. axinellae [Schmidt, 1862]), Umimayanthus spp. are only found associated to sponges, and have a coenenchyme much less developed than Parazoanthus sensu stricto. Each new species can be distinguished from other congeners by a unique DNA sequence, numbers of tentacle, maximum sizes of holotrichs, associated sponge morphology, and colony morphology. The identification of the host sponge species is the next logical step in this research as this may also aid in the distinction of Umimayanthus species.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-90
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): 1389-CRG1
Acknowledgements: This research project was successful thanks to the continued support of the Japanese government via a Monbukagakusho (MEXT) scholarship within the Okinawa International Marine Science Program (OIMAP) at the University of the Ryukyus to the first author. The first author would like to thanks all the members of the MISE laboratory for their help in field work and data collection. The senior author was supported in part by the International Research Hub Project for Climate Change and Coral Reef/Island Dynamics at the University of the Ryukyus, and by a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) "Zuno Junkan" Grant entitled "Studies on origin and maintenance of marine biodiversity and systematic conservation planning". The Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems' Australian node (CReefs: a field project of the Census of Marine Life), J. Caley, and S. Smith (both Australian Institute of Marine Science) are thanked for help in providing specimens from Australia. We also thank D. Uyeno, T. Fujii, and F. Iwase for providing invaluable specimens from Japan utilized in this study. This research was also supported by award #1389-CRG1 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to M.L. Berumen. J. Bouwmeester, J. DiBattista, A. Gusti, A. Macauley, C. Nelson, M. Priest, and T. Sinclair-Taylor of KAUST, as well as the crew of the M/Y Dream Master, are thanked for logistical support. L. Gibo is thanked for helping us with Uchinaguchi language. Comments from two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


Dive into the research topics of 'Unexpected diversity and new species in the sponge-Parazoanthidae association in southern Japan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this