Rarity of the “common” coral Pocillopora damicornis in the western Philippine archipelago
Extensive phenotypic plasticity generally confounds identification of the common reef-building coral Pocillopora damicornis. With the recognition of P. damicornis genetic lineages as taxonomic species, this study surveyed genetic lineages within P. damicornis sensu lato (Veron and Pichon in Scleractinia of Eastern Australia, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia, 1976) in the Philippines. Employing a PCR–RFLP assay of the mitochondrial control region and sequencing of the mitochondrial open reading frame for lineage identification, we examined 694 P. damicornis s.l. colonies from 16 locations across the Philippine archipelago to characterize Pocillopora species distribution in the region. Genetic identification reveals the occurrence of P. acuta and the absence of P. damicornis in the Philippines. This study highlights the need to revisit the distributional limits of this extensively studied species complex and the necessity of using genetic information for taxonomic identification where morphological identification is unreliable.
KeywordsGenetic diversity Cryptic species Pocillopora Taxonomy Species distribution Philippines
This study was supported by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau, and the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute. Darryl Valino, Mikhael Tañedo, Romer Albino, Inggat Casilagan, Joey Cabasan, David Siquioco, and Lovely Heyres assisted with field collections.
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