Research Article

Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 3, pp 345-358

First online:

Molecular relationships and species divergence among Phragmatopoma spp. (Polychaeta: Sabellaridae) in the Americas

  • Carrie A. DrakeAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Utah State University Email author 
  • , Daniel A. McCarthyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology and Marine Science, Jacksonville University
  • , Carol D. von DohlenAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Utah State University

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Phragmatopoma spp. are marine, reef-building polychaetes that inhabit the intertidal and shallow subtidal zones of both coasts of the Americas. Phragmatopoma californica is found in the Pacific Ocean along the California coast south to Mexico, while Phragmatopoma caudata inhabits the Caribbean islands and Atlantic Ocean from the Florida coast south to Brazil. Although apparently geographically isolated, P. californica and P. caudata have been found to interbreed (Pawlik 1988a) and thus their specific taxonomic relationship has been unclear. In this study, two genes, cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) and the first internal transcribed spacer region (ITS-1), were sequenced to assess the specific status of P. californica and P. caudata as well as Phragmatopoma virgini. Comparison of sequences revealed that samples of P. californica shared no COI haplotypes or ITS-1 sequences with P. caudata. Phylogenetic analyses, including maximum parsimony and Bayesian methods, clustered each species in separate, well-supported clades with genetic distances between them being greater than between either contested species or the uncontested, valid species, P. virgini. Thus, the molecular data support that P. californica and P. caudata are separate species. However, the sample of individuals of P. virgini included one genetically divergent individual, whose morphology was found to match that of a species formerly recognized as P. moerchi but since synonymized with P. virgini. Divergences among lineages were dated using the COI sequences, after adjustment for non-clock-like behavior. Consequently, we suggest that P. virgini and P. caudata are sister taxons and that P. californica diverged from the P. virgini/P. caudata clade ∼5.7 mya with P. virgini diverging from P. caudata ∼3 mya.