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An ITS region phylogeny of Siderastrea (Cnidaria: Anthozoa): is S. glynni endangered or introduced?

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The genus Siderastrea contains only five extant species, including Siderastrea glynni, which is one of the few recognized species of endangered stony coral. Cloned sequences of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region had low levels of intragenomic nucleotide diversity, and few alignment ambiguities, which allowed for the first species-level phylogenetic analysis of the genus. Results indicated an unexpected deep divergence between the Western-Pacific and Atlantic species. ITS region sequences indicated that S. glynni is not derived from S. savignyana, as previously thought. Instead, S. glynni shared identical sequence types with S. siderea in the Caribbean. Given a range of previously published evolutionary rates for the ITS region, it is unlikely that S. glynni represents the remnants of a population that was divided by the closure of the Central American Seaway (approximately 3–3.8 MYA). It is more likely that S. glynni originated by a breach of the Isthmus (approximately 2 MYA), or a contemporary introduction by ship.

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Our apologies to Peter W. Glynn for questioning the validity of a species named in his honor. Many thanks to Ann Budd for confirming the identification of Siderastrea savignyana, to Juan Mate and Elizabeth Neves, and to the editor and two anonymous reviewers for vastly improving the manuscript. This work was made possible by grants to G.M. Wellington from the Environmental Institute of Houston and the National Geographic Society#6047–97, and grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NAG5-12366) and the Institute of Space Systems Operations to G. E. Fox. C. A. Chen was supported by the Academia Sinica thematic grant (2001–2004), Taiwan. We also acknowledge continued support from Cynthia Hunter and Sterling Keeley.

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Correspondence to Z. H. Forsman.

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Forsman, Z.H., Guzman, H.M., Chen, C.A. et al. An ITS region phylogeny of Siderastrea (Cnidaria: Anthozoa): is S. glynni endangered or introduced?. Coral Reefs 24, 343–347 (2005).

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