, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 161-171

Palolo and un: distinct clades in the genus Palola (Eunicidae, Polychaeta)

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Abstract

The annual swarming of epitokes of the eunicid polychaete Palola viridis has great cultural significance in Samoa and other Indo-Pacific locations. Palola spp. occur worldwide in warm shallow-water environments, but not all populations appear to swarm. Morphological distinctions among Palola species are subtle but, based on phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial markers, two species groups can be distinguished, each containing numerous subclades. The objectives of this study were to determine the position of P. viridis in the phylogeny of the genus, to assess the species’ genetic distinctness and to describe P. viridis epitokes morphologically. We sequenced epitokes from Samoa (locally known as palolo) and Vanuatu (un) for two mitochondrial markers and performed phylogenetic analyses in combination with previously published sequences. The samples from Samoa and Vanuatu formed a common clade in species group B. We suggest that swarming is restricted to this species group, although probably not to a single species.