Recent advances in scleractinian systematics and taxonomy have been achieved through the integration of molecular and morphological data, as well as rigorous analysis using phylogenetic methods. In this study, we continue in our pursuit of a phylogenetic classification by examining the evolutionary relationships between the closely related reef coral genera Merulina, Goniastrea, Paraclavarina and Scapophyllia (Merulinidae). In particular, we address the extreme polyphyly of Favites and Goniastrea that was discovered a decade ago. We sampled 145 specimens belonging to 16 species from a wide geographic range in the Indo-Pacific, focusing especially on type localities, including the Red Sea, western Indian Ocean and central Pacific. Tree reconstructions based on both nuclear and mitochondrial markers reveal a novel lineage composed of three species previously placed in Favites and Goniastrea. Morphological analyses indicate that this clade, Paragoniastrea Huang, Benzoni & Budd, gen. n., has a unique combination of corallite and subcorallite features observable with scanning electron microscopy and thin sections. Molecular and morphological evidence furthermore indicates that the monotypic genus Paraclavarina is nested within Merulina, and the former is therefore synonymised. © 2014 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Animal Science and Zoology