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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2012, Article ID 856079, 14 pages
Research Article

Species Diversity of Shallow Water Zoanthids (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) in Florida

1Molecular Invertebrate Systematics and Ecology Laboratory, Rising Star Program, Transdisciplinary Research Organization for Subtropical Island Studies (TRO-SIS), University of the Ryukyus, Senbaru 1, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan
2Marine Biodiversity Research Program, Institute of Biogeosciences, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 237-0061, Japan
3Coral Morphologic Aquaculture Research Lab, 800 NW 7th Avehve Miami, FL 33136, USA
4Molecular Invertebrate Systematics and Ecology Laboratory, Graduate School of Engineering and Sciences, University of the Ryukyus, Senbaru 1, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan

Received 22 March 2012; Accepted 25 May 2012

Academic Editor: Pei-Yuan Qian

Copyright © 2012 James Davis Reimer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Shallow water zooxanthellate zoanthids are a common component of the coral reef ecosystems of the Caribbean. Despite this, their species diversity remains poorly understood. In this study, collected Palythoa, Zoanthus, Isaurus, and Terrazoanthus specimens from the waters of Florida were phylogenetically examined to obtain a better understanding of zoanthid species diversity in the Caribbean. Surprisingly, the results from analyses utilizing three DNA markers (mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA, cytochrome oxidase subunit I, and the internal transcribed spacer of ribosomal DNA) showed the presence of at least eleven species, of which up to four appear undescribed. Additionally, the presence of the genus Terrazoanthus in the Caribbean was confirmed for the first time. Attempts to match phylogenetic species or clades with original literature were hampered by vague and short original descriptions, and it is clear that for Atlantic Palythoa and Zoanthus species an in-depth and multidisciplinary investigation is needed to reconcile recent phylogenetic results such as in this study with traditional taxonomy. Furthermore, most shallow water zoanthid species from Florida were observed to have close, sister-species relationships with previously investigated species in the Pacific Ocean. These results indicate that many brachycnemic zoanthid species likely had a Caribbean-Pacific distribution until the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. However, due to inadvertent redescriptions, overall species diversity in these two common genera is likely much lower than literature indicates.