Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 1079–1091 | Cite as

Zooxanthellate zoantharians (Anthozoa: Hexacorallia: Zoantharia: Brachycnemina) in the northern Red Sea

  • James Davis Reimer
  • Javier Montenegro
  • Maria E. A. Santos
  • Martyn E. Y. Low
  • Marcela Herrera
  • Remy Gatins
  • May B. Roberts
  • Michael L. Berumen
Red Sea Biodiversity


The Red Sea was one of the first areas of the Indo-Pacific to be investigated by marine taxonomists, and the literature on suborder Brachycnemina (Anthozoa: Hexacorallia: Zoantharia) for this region dates from the early nineteenth century. However, in the last 100 years there has been only one focused study on this group in the Red Sea. In the present study, specimens collected from the Saudi Arabian coast of the northern half of the Red Sea were phylogenetically analyzed by sequencing nuclear internal transcribed spacer regions of ribosomal DNA (ITS-rDNA), mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI), and 16S ribosomal DNA (16S–rDNA). The new results were compared with historical data in the literature and recent results from the Persian Gulf and the southeastern coast of Africa. Results show the presence of six to seven potential Brachycnemina species in the Red Sea; five to six Palythoa species (Palythoa mutuki, P. tuberculosa, P. cf. heliodiscus, P. aff. heliodiscus, and one to two species within the P. sp. “sakurajimensis” group) together with Zoanthus sansibaricus. While P. mutuki, P. tuberculosa, and Z. sansibaricus are known to be widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific, P. cf. heliodiscus and P. sp. “sakurajimensis” have not been reported from the Persian Gulf or the southeastern coast of Africa, and the current results represent large range extensions for these two species. Only one of the observed species, P. aff. heliodiscus, is potentially endemic to the Red Sea, further demonstrating the generally wide distributions of most zooxanthellate Brachycnemina species.


Saudi Arabia Taxonomy Zoogeography Cnidaria Species diversity 



This research was supported by award No. 1389-CRG1 and baseline funding from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to M.L.B. The following people from KAUST are thanked for logistical support: A. magnum Kattan, J. Bouwmeester, L. Chen, J. DiBattista, A. Gusti, A. Macauley, C. Nelson, M. Priest, and T. Sinclair-Taylor of KAUST, and the crew of the MY ‘Dream Master’. J.P. Hobbs, F. Benzoni, D. Uyeno, A.M. Kattan, and V. Chaldez are thanked for sampling help. J.D.R. was additionally supported in part by a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science “Kiban B” grant entitled “Global evolution of Brachycnemina and their Symbiodinium”. Two anonymous reviewers greatly improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

12526_2017_706_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (480 kb)
Supplementary Figure S1 Maximum likelihood (ML) tree of mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA (16S–rDNA) sequences of Brachycnemina. Sequences from previous studies with GenBank accession numbers, location, and species name. Sequences from specimens in this study in bold. Values at nodes represent ML and neighbor-joining (NJ) values. (PDF 480 kb)
12526_2017_706_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (177 kb)
Supplementary Figure S2 Maximum likelihood (ML) tree of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI) sequences of Brachycnemina. Sequences from previous studies with GenBank accession numbers, location, and species name. Sequences from specimens in this study in bold. Values at nodes represent ML and neighbor-joining (NJ) values. (PDF 176 kb)
12526_2017_706_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (17 kb)
Supplementary Table S1 Some taxonomic historical notes of Brachycnemina species-group names in the Red Sea. (XLSX 17 kb)
12526_2017_706_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (20 kb)
Supplementary Table S2 Brachycnemina specimens from the northern Red Sea collected in this study, their collection information, GenBank Accession Numbers, and identification. (XLSX 19.7 kb)


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Invertebrate and Systematics Ecology Laboratory, Graduate School of Engineering and ScienceUniversity of the RyukyusOkinawaJapan
  2. 2.Tropical Biosphere Research CenterUniversity of the RyukyusOkinawaJapan
  3. 3.Lee Kong Chian Museum of Natural HistoryNational University of SingaporeSingaporeRepublic of Singapore
  4. 4.Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Red Sea Research CenterKing Abdullah University of Science and TechnologyThuwalSaudi Arabia

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