Stemmer, Kristina, Burghardt, Ingo, Mayer, Christoph, Reinicke, Götz B., Wägele, Heike, Tollrian, Ralph and Leese, Florian (2013) Morphological and genetic analyses of xeniid soft coral diversity (Octocorallia; Alcyonacea). Organisms Diversity & Evolution, 13 (2). pp. 135-150. DOI

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Studies on the biodiversity and evolution of octocorals are hindered by the incomplete knowledge of their taxonomy, which is due to few reliable morphological characters. Therefore, assessment of true species diversity within abundant and ecologically important families such as Xeniidae is difficult. Mitochondrial genes provide a reliable solution to this problem for a wide range of taxa. However, low mutation rates of the mitochondrial DNA in octocorals result in insufficient variability for species discrimination. We compared the variation of a fragment of the Signal Recognition Particle 54 gene (SRP54, proposed for octocorals) and the mitochondrial ND6/ND3 marker among members of the xeniid genera Ovabunda, Xenia, Heteroxenia and Bayerxenia. The mean uncorrected pairwise sequence divergence was 39 % for SRP54 compared to 2 % for ND6/ND3. Morphological assignments were not always supported by genetics: Species diversity was underestimated (one case) or overestimated, probably reflecting intraspecific polymorphisms or hinting at recent speciations. ND6/ND3 is informative for some species-level assignments, whereas SRP54 shows the variability needed for species delimitations within this understudied taxon. Our results on both genes show their potential for evolutionary and biodiversity studies in Xeniidae.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Ecology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 1439-6092
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2019 13:13
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 12:59

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