Mitochondrial genome rearrangements in the Scleractinia/Corallimorpharia complex: implications for coral phylogeny

Lin, Mei-Fang, Kitahara, Marcelo Visentini, Luo, Haiwei, Tracey, Dianne, Geller, Jonathan, Fukami, Hironobu, Miller, David John, and Chen, Chaolun Allen (2014) Mitochondrial genome rearrangements in the Scleractinia/Corallimorpharia complex: implications for coral phylogeny. Genome Biology and Evolution, 6 (5). pp. 1086-1095.

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Corallimorpharia is a small Order of skeleton-less animals that is closely related to the reef-building corals (Scleractinia) and of fundamental interest in the context of understanding the potential impacts of climate change in the future on coral reefs. The relationship between the nominal Orders Corallimorpharia and Scleractinia is controversial-the former is either the closest outgroup to the Scleractinia or alternatively is derived from corals via skeleton loss. This latter scenario, the "naked coral" hypothesis, is strongly supported by analyses based on mitochondrial (mt) protein sequences, whereas the former is equally strongly supported by analyses of mt nucleotide sequences. The "naked coral" hypothesis seeks to link skeleton loss in the putative ancestor of corallimorpharians with a period of elevated oceanic CO2 during the Cretaceous, leading to the idea that these skeleton-less animals may be harbingers for the fate of coral reefs under global climate change. In an attempt to better understand their evolutionary relationships, we examined mt genome organization in a representative range (12 species, representing 3 of the 4 extant families) of corallimorpharians and compared these patterns with other Hexacorallia. The most surprising finding was that mt genome organization in Corallimorphus profundus, a deep-water species that is the most scleractinian-like of all corallimorpharians on the basis of morphology, was much more similar to the common scleractinian pattern than to those of other corallimorpharians. This finding is consistent with the idea that C. profundus represents a key position in the coral <-> corallimorpharian transition.

Item ID: 34111
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1759-6653
Keywords: naked coral hypothesis, gene order, mitochondrial genome, coral evolution
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© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact

Funders: James Cook University, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), São Paulo University Marine Biology Centre, National Science Council, Academia Sinica (AS), Australian Research Council
Projects and Grants: AS Thematic Grants 2005–2010
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2014 09:25
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