, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 935-949
Date: 27 May 2008

Morphological and molecular characterization of a new genus and new species of parazoanthid (Anthozoa: Hexacorallia: Zoantharia) associated with Japanese Red Coral

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The Order Zoantharia has long been taxonomically neglected primarily due to difficulty in examining the internal morphology of sand-encrusted zoanthids. However, recent work using molecular markers has shown an unexpectedly high diversity of previously “hidden” taxa (families and genera) within Zoantharia (=Zoanthidea, Zoanthiniaria). In this study, unidentified sediment-encrusting zoanthid specimens (n = 8) were collected from living Japanese Red Coral Paracorallium japonicum (Family Coralliidae) during precious coral harvesting by Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and manned submersible (February 2004–January 2006) at depths of 194–250 m at six locations between Ishigaki-jima Island and Kikai-jima Island, southern Japan. DNA sequences (mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA [mt 16S rDNA], cytochrome oxidase subunit I [COI], nuclear internal transcribed spacer of ribosomal DNA [ITS-rDNA]) unambiguously place these specimens in a previously undescribed, new monophyletic lineage within the family Parazoanthidae. Corallizoanthus tsukaharai, gen. n. et sp. n. is the first reported zoanthid species associated with the family Coralliidae and unlike other described gorgonian-associated zoanthids (Savalia spp.) does not secrete its own hard axis. Morphologically, C. tsukaharai sp. n. is characterized by generally unitary polyps and bright yellow external coloration.