Scientia Marina, Vol 81, No 2 (2017)

Foxed intra- and interspecific differentiation in Leptogorgia (Octocorallia: Gorgoniidae). A description of a new species based on multiple sources of evidence

M. Mar Soler-Hurtado
Dpto. Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC - Biodiversidad y Ecología de Invertebrados Marinos, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla - Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales , Spain

César Megina
Biodiversidad y Ecología de Invertebrados Marinos, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla , Spain

Annie Machordom
Dpto. Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC , Spain

Pablo J. López-González
Biodiversidad y Ecología de Invertebrados Marinos, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Sevilla , Spain


The challenges of delimiting and identifying marine invertebrate species impede estimations of true biodiversity. This is particularly true in the case of gorgonian diversity, in which only classical morphological characters (e.g. branching pattern, size and colouration of the colony and sclerites, etc.), which can be homoplastic and continuous, have been used. In this study, using an integrative taxonomic approach, we analysed two morphs initially considered as two eco-typical variants of Leptogorgia alba Duchassaing and Michelotti, 1864, living sympatrically in the littoral area of Ecuador. We explored the use of classical morphological and morphometric characters to delimit species in combination with the analyses of molecular markers (mtMutS, CoxII-Igr-CoxI, ITSs, and 28S rRNA) to infer phylogenetic relationships. Based on our results, two species should be considered, L. alba and a new species, L. manabiensis n. sp., which showed distinguishing morphological features that cannot be attributed to phenotypic plasticity. Both species also showed significant differences in morphometric, non-correlated characters in all size classes. The phylogenetic analyses showed a polyphyletic L. alba - L. manabiensis n. sp. species complex, and ancestral polymorphism and incomplete lineage sorting as possible evolutionary processes leading to this pattern. In conclusion, the combination of morphological and morphometric evidences provides the best support for the identification and delimitation of these challenging species. In addition, molecular analyses, mainly supported by nuclear markers, allow fundamental aspects of the evolutionary history of these organisms to be discerned.


incomplete lineage sorting; hybridization; ITS; mtMutS; 28S; CoxII-Igr-CoxI; Igr; Ecuador

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