Re-evaluation of the systematics of the endemic corals of Brazil by molecular data
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Recent genetic work on various coral genera has shown that morphological convergence between Atlantic and Pacific corals obscures evolutionary relationships and inferred levels of endemicity between the regions. Based on DNA sequences from nuclear and mitochondrial loci that provide higher resolution than those previously presented, this study shows that relationships within parts of the Atlantic coral fauna are also in need of substantial revision. The data presented here indicate that (1) the endemic Brazilian genus Mussismilia is a monophyletic clade, (2) Mussismilia is more closely related to the Caribbean Faviidae than Mussidae, the family in which it is currently placed, (3) the Brazilian endemic coral Favia leptophylla is much more closely related to Mussismilia than other species of Favia and has most likely been incorrectly placed in the genus Favia and (4) the other endemic Favia species found in Brazil, Favia gravida, is genetically distinct from Favia fragum, a Caribbean congener with which it is frequently synonymized. The nuclear data also suggest the possible presence of a cryptic species within Mussismilia, but additional sampling and morphological information is required to confirm this finding.