A tenuis relationship: traditional taxonomy obscures systematics and biogeography of the ‘Acropora tenuis’ (Scleractinia: Acroporidae) species complex

Bridge, Tom C.L., Cowman, Peter F., Quattrini, Andrea M., Bonito, Victor E., Sinniger, Frederic, Harii, Saki, Head, Catherine E.I., Hung, Julia Y., Halafihi, Tuikolongahau, Rongo, Teina, and Baird, Andrew H. (2024) A tenuis relationship: traditional taxonomy obscures systematics and biogeography of the ‘Acropora tenuis’ (Scleractinia: Acroporidae) species complex. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. zlad062. (In Press)

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Molecular phylogenetics has fundamentally altered our understanding of the taxonomy, systematics and biogeography of corals. Recently developed phylogenomic techniques have started to resolve species-level relationships in the diverse and ecologically important genus Acropora, providing a path to resolve the taxonomy of this notoriously problematic group. We used a targeted capture dataset (2032 loci) to investigate systematic relationships within an Acropora clade containing the putatively widespread species Acropora tenuis and its relatives. Using maximum likelihood phylogenies and genetic clustering of single nucleotide polymorphisms from specimens, including topotypes, collected across the Indo-Pacific, we show ≥ 11 distinct lineages in the clade, only four of which correspond to currently accepted species. Based on molecular, morphological and geographical evidence, we describe two new species; Acropora rongoi n. sp. and Acropora tenuissima n. sp. and remove five additional nominal species from synonymy. Systematic relationships revealed by our molecular phylogeny are incongruent with traditional morphological taxonomy and demonstrate that characters traditionally used to delineate species boundaries and infer evolutionary history are homoplasies. Furthermore, we show that species within this clade have much smaller geographical ranges and, consequently, population sizes than currently thought, a finding with profound implications for conservation and management of reef corals.

Item ID: 79601
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1096-3642
Keywords: Scleractinia, taxonomy, species boundaries, phylogenetic systematics, Indo-Pacific
Copyright Information: © 2023 The Linnean Society of London. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), 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 journals. permissions@oup.com
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC DE170100516, ARC DE180100746
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2023 05:47
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310401 Animal systematics and taxonomy @ 80%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310402 Biogeography and phylogeography @ 20%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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