Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 891–891 | Cite as

Remarkable specialization in Eastern Pacific sea fan ectoparasites (Neosimnia)

Reef Site
Ovulids, cowry-like mollusks, are permanent ectoparasites of black corals and octocorals (Lorenz and Fehse 2009). Pacific sea fans (Octocorallia: Gorgoniidae: Pacifigorgia) host an ovulid identified as Neosimnia avena (G. B. Sowerby II, 1832) (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Ovulidae), which mimics its octocoral host matching both coenenchyme and polyps (Fig. 1a–c). There are more than 30 species of Pacifigorgia that are confined to the Eastern Pacific rocky-coral reefs, and each species contains a specialized N. avena. At the remote island of Malpelo (Colombia), for instance, there are only two sea fan species with very different colorations and branching shapes (Sánchez et al. 2011), each containing mimetic N. avena ectoparasites (Fig. 1b, c). Are all these nearly perfectly adapted symbionts the same species? Is host morphological resemblance a selective driving force for Neosimnia? Although N. avena is commonly found on gorgonian corals (Lorenz and Fehse 2009), it is uncertain whether speciation in these symbionts matches the hosts’ evolutionary processes. However, Pacifigorgia-N. avena is a promising biological model for studying ecological speciation and coevolution in coral reefs.
Fig. 1

Images of Neosimnia avena (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Ovulidae) ectoparasites of Eastern Pacific sea fans (Pacifigorgia: Gorgoniidae: Octocorallia) at Malpelo island reefs (Colombia). aPacifigorgia cf. cairnsi Breedy and Guzmán, 2003 colony with N. avena in the center (15 m deep); b, cN. avena with mimic octocoral polyps on the mantle: bN. avena associated with P. cf. cairnsi; cN. avena associated with Pacifigorgia cf. curta Breedy and Guzmán, 2003 (orange polyps morphotype, 7 m deep) (all shells <15 mm long)



Support from Fundación Malpelo, National Geographic Society-Waitt grants, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI), and COLCIENCIAS (grant No. 1204-521-29002), as well as comments and assistance from Fabio Casas, Carlos Edwin Gómez, Nestor Ardila, Angela Fuentes-Pardo, Luisa F. Dueñas, Sandra Bessudo, Alvaro Buenaventura, Odalisca Breedy, Héctor Guzmán, German Soler, Stan Teillaud, and three anonymous reviewers are greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio de Biología Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR), Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de los AndesBogotáColombia

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