Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 365–373 | Cite as

Historical biogeography and mitogenomics of two endemic Mediterranean gorgonians (Holaxonia, Plexauridae)

  • Angelo Poliseno
  • Alvaro Altuna
  • Carlo Cerrano
  • Gert Wörheide
  • Sergio Vargas
Original Article


Among the Mediterranean plexaurids, four species are endemic and despite their ecological importance, comprehensive studies on the evolution and biogeography of these organisms are lacking. Here, we explore the mitogenomic variability of two endemic, ecologically important Mediterranean Paramuricea species. We assess their phylogenetic relationships and provide first insights into their evolution and biogeography. Complete mitogenome sequences of Paramuricea clavata and Paramuricea macrospina were obtained using long-range PCR, primer-walking and Sanger sequencing. For an enlarged sample of Paramuricea species, maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic trees of the mitochondrial gene mtMutS were obtained and used to study the biogeographic history of Paramuricea through a statistical Dispersal-Vicariance (S-DIVA) method and a Dispersal Extinction Cladogenesis (DEC) model. Divergence time was estimated under strict and relaxed molecular clock models in BEAST using published octocoral mutation rates. Our results revealed high nucleotide diversity (2.6%) among the two Mediterranean endemics; the highest mutation rates were found in the mtMutS, Nad4 and Nad5. In addition, we found length polymorphisms in several intergenic regions and differences in mitochondrial genome size. The red gorgonian P. clavata was closely related to the Eastern Atlantic Paramuricea grayi rather than its Mediterranean congener, P. macrospina. Our biogeographic results provide evidence for the independent speciation of the Mediterranean species and point to a Miocene origin of the two endemics, highlighting the role played by the Messinian Salinity Crisis in the evolutionary history of Mediterranean organisms.


Endemic species Mediterranean Mitogenomics Paramuricea Phylogeography Vicariance Octocorals 



We thank Andromede Océanologie and Thibault Rauby for help with sampling and to José Aldrey and Marie-Noëlle de Casamajor for sending part of the samples. We would also like to thank an anonymous reviewer for the insightful comments on the paper. This study was possible thanks to the generous support of the LMU München Junior Research Funds to SV through the German Excellence Initiative. SV is indebted to N. Villalobos, M. Vargas, S. Vargas and S. Vargas for their constant support during the realization of this study.

Supplementary material

13127_2017_322_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (898 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 898 kb)


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angelo Poliseno
    • 1
  • Alvaro Altuna
    • 2
  • Carlo Cerrano
    • 3
  • Gert Wörheide
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Sergio Vargas
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Palaeontology and GeobiologyLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  2. 2.INSUB, Zemoria 12San SebastiánSpain
  3. 3.Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (DiSVA)Marche Polytechnic UniversityAnconaItaly
  4. 4.GeoBio-CenterLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  5. 5.Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und GeologieMunichGermany

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