Molecular phylogeny of the Robust clade (Faviidae, Mussidae, Merulinidae, and Pectiniidae): An Indian Ocean perspective

Roberto Arrigoni, Fabrizio Stefani, Michel Pichon, Paolo Galli, Francesca Benzoni

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    61 Scopus citations


    Recent phylogenetic analyses have demonstrated the limits of traditional coral taxonomy based solely on skeletal morphology. In this phylogenetic context, Faviidae and Mussidae are ecologically dominant families comprising one third of scleractinian reef coral genera, but their phylogenies remain partially unresolved. Many of their taxa are scattered throughout most of the clades of the Robust group, and major systematic incongruences exist. Numerous genera and species remain unstudied, and the entire biogeographic area of the Indian Ocean remains largely unsampled. In this study, we analyzed a portion of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene and a portion of ribosomal DNA for 14 genera and 27 species of the Faviidae and Mussidae collected from the Indian Ocean and New Caledonia and this is the first analysis of five of these species. For some taxa, newly discovered evolutionary relationships were detected, such as the evolutionary distinctiveness of Acanthastrea maxima, the genetic overlap of Parasimplastrea omanensis and Blastomussa merleti, and the peculiar position of Favites peresi in clade XVII together with Echinopora and Montastraea salebrosa. Moreover, numerous cases of intraspecific divergences between Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean populations were detected. The most striking cases involve the genera Favites and Favia, and in particular Favites complanata, F. halicora, Favia favus, F. pallida, F. matthaii, and F. rotumana, but divergence also is evident in Blastomussa merleti, Cyphastrea serailia, and Echinopora gemmacea. High morphological variability characterizes most of these taxa, thus traditional skeletal characteristics, such as corallite arrangement, seem to be evolutionary misleading and are plagued by convergence. Our results indicate that the systematics of the Faviidae and the Mussidae is far from being resolved and that the inclusion of conspecific populations of different geographical origin represents an unavoidable step when redescribing the taxonomy and systematics of scleractinian corals. More molecular phylogenies are needed to define the evolutionary lineages that could be corroborated by known and newly discovered micromorphological characters. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)183-193
    Number of pages11
    JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


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