Incongruence between morphotypes and genetically delimited species in the coral genus Stylophora: phenotypic plasticity, morphological convergence, morphological stasis or interspecific hybridization?

BMC Ecology
Jean-François FlotSimon Tillier


Morphological data suggest that, unlike most other groups of marine organisms, scleractinian corals of the genus Stylophora are more diverse in the western Indian Ocean and in the Red Sea than in the central Indo-Pacific. However, the morphology of corals is often a poor predictor of their actual biodiversity: hence, we conducted a genetic survey of Stylophora corals collected in Madagascar, Okinawa, the Philippines and New Caledonia in an attempt to find out the true number of species in these various locations. A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the mitochondrial ORF and putative control region concurs with a haploweb analysis of nuclear ITS2 sequences in delimiting three species among our dataset: species A and B are found in Madagascar whereas species C occurs in Okinawa, the Philippines and New Caledonia. Comparison of ITS1 sequences from these three species with data available online suggests that species C is also found on the Great Barrier Reef, in Malaysia, in the South China Sea and in Taiwan, and that a distinct species D occurs in the Red Sea. Shallow-water morphs of species A correspond to the morphological description of Stylophora madagascarensis, species B presents the morphology of Stylophora mordax, whereas ...Continue Reading


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