Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 2381–2399 | Cite as

Unexpected discovery of Diadema clarki in the Coral Triangle

  • Abigail Mary Moore
  • Asmi Citra Malina Tassakka
  • Rohani Ambo-Rappe
  • Inayah Yasir
  • David John Smith
  • Jamaluddin JompaEmail author
Original Paper


Sea urchins of the genus Diadema, key herbivores in coral reef ecosystems, also provide habitat for other organisms. Our research extended Diadema biogeography in seaways east and west of Sulawesi and identified Diadema species associated with the endemic Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) using field surveys and molecular DNA barcoding methods. Field observations (20 sites, n = 11,223) found urchins with morphological phenotypes typical of Diadema setosum (≈ 74%, all sites), D. savignyi (≈ 24%, 19 sites) and atypical or mixed traits (≈ 2%, 19 sites). Distribution of these phenotype groups across the three main habitat types (i.e. coral reef, reef flat and seagrass beds) differed significantly (χ2 = 533.03, p < 2.2e−16), indicating overlapping but non-equivalent ecological niches. Pterapogon kauderni associated with all urchin morphological phenotypes present. Diadema mtDNA CO1 sequences were obtained from tissue samples collected (4 sites, n = 62) from specimens with typical D. savignyi and D. setosum phenotypes. Phylogenetic tree analysis resolved the sequences into four clades. Three clades from our analysis were identified as D. savignyi, D. setosum and D. clarki based on additional sequences obtained from GenBank. This unexpected first record of D. clarki mtDNA in the Coral Triangle implies a substantial extension of the known range of this recently resurrected species. Our findings indicate the occurrence and/or introgression of D. clarki may be widespread, and misidentification of Diadema urchins based on external morphology may be relatively common. Further research is required to determine the distribution and functional roles of Indo-Pacific Diadema species, contributing to our understanding of processes underpinning biodiversity.


Diadematidae Cryptic species Range extension Biogeographic phylogeny mtDNA barcode Congeneric hybridisation 



The authors wish to thank the many organisations and individuals who assisted with or facilitated the research and the production of this manuscript, including the BIONESIA team (molecular biology laboratory) and Muh. Banda Selamat (assistance with Fig. 1). We also wish to express our sincere gratitude to the three reviewers for their contributions which have enriched and improved the manuscript, to our editor for her unflagging support and patience and to all the Marine Biodiversity editorial team.


This study was funded by grant 3663/UN4.21/LK.23/2017 from the Hasanuddin University Professorship scheme, grant 3083/UN4.21/PL.00.00/2018 from the Hasanuddin University International Research Collaboration and Scientific Publication scheme and grant No. 168.A8/D2/KP/2017 from the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education World Class Professor Scheme B. Preparation of the manuscript was supported by World Class Professor Scheme B Grant No. 168.A8/D2/KP/2017 from the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field study

All necessary permitting and procedures were followed for the observational field study and the collection of samples, and the appropriate documents were provided to and/or obtained by the authors from the competent authorities.

Data availability

The datasets generated during the current study have been deposited in the GenBank repository under MG988406–MG988411, MH051847–MH051888 and MK296413–MK296426.

Supplementary material

12526_2019_978_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 17 kb)
12526_2019_978_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (914 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 914 kb)
12526_2019_978_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (865 kb)
ESM 3 (PDF 865 kb)


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Marine Science and FisheriesUniversitas HasanuddinMakassarIndonesia
  2. 2.Coral Reef Research UnitUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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