Clownfish hosting anemones (Anthozoa, Actiniaria) of the Red Sea: new associations and distributions, historical misidentifications, and morphological variability

Morgan Bennett-Smith, John E. Majoris, Benjamin M. Titus, Michael L. Berumen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The Red Sea contains thousands of kilometers of fringing reef systems inhabited by clownfish and sea anemones, yet there is no consensus regarding the diversity of host anemone species that inhabit this region. We sought to clarify a historical record and recent literature sources that disagree on the diversity of host anemone species in the Red Sea, which contains one endemic anemonefish, Amphiprion bicinctus Rüppell 1830. Results: We conducted 73 surveys spanning ~ 1600 km of coastline from the northern Saudi Arabian Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and encountered seven species of host anemones, six of which hosted A. bicinctus. We revise the list of symbionts for A. bicinctus to include Stichodactyla haddoni (Saville-Kent, 1893) and Stichodactyla mertensii Brandt, 1835 which were both observed in multiple regions. We describe Red Sea phenotypic variability in Heteractis crispa (Hemprich & Ehrenberg in Ehrenberg, 1834) and Heteractis aurora (Quoy & Gaimard, 1833), which may indicate that these species hybridize in this region. We did not encounter Stichodactyla gigantea (Forsskål, 1775), although the Red Sea is the type locality for this species. Further, a thorough review of peer-reviewed literature, occurrence records, and misidentified basis of record reports dating back to the early twentieth century indicate that it is unlikely that S. gigantea occurs in the Red Sea. Conclusions: In sum, we present a new guide for the host anemones of the Red Sea, revise the host specificity of A. bicinctus, and question whether S. gigantea occurs in the central and western Indian Ocean.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMarine Biodiversity Records
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 25 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Oceanography

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