MEPS 345:105-115 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07013

Phenotypic variation in the coral Platygyra daedalea in Kenya: morphometry and genetics

Sangeeta Mangubhai1, Petra Souter2,3,*, Mats Grahn2

1School of Environmental Science & Management, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales 2480, Australia
2Molecular Ecology Group, School of Life Sciences, Södertörn University College, 141 89 Huddinge, Sweden
3Present address: Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB No 3, Townsville MC, Queensland 4810, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: High intraspecific variability and lack of adequate field descriptions or distinguishing skeletal features has made identification of the scleractinian coral Platygyra daedalea challenging. This species displays a number of distinct morphological types that co-occur on lagoonal reefs in Kenya and which often cannot be separated by field observations. To better understand how morphological and genetic variations are related, morphometric and molecular techniques were used to examine phenotypic variation in P. daedalea. A canonical discriminant analysis of measurements of 10 skeletal characters confirmed the existence of 2 morphotypes. No single diagnostic trait could be used to distinguish the 2 morphotypes, though a combination of 4 characters separated them. A mathematical equation is presented to separate colonies into the 2 morphotypes, where field identification is not possible. Genetic differentiation was studied using 5 microsatellite loci and sequence analysis of the internal transcriber spacer (ITS1 and ITS2) and 5.8S region of the nuclear ribosomal RNA gene. AMOVA of the microsatellite and ITS sequence data showed significant genetic differences between the 2 morphotypes. However, phylogenetic analysis of the ITS sequences showed no evidence of sequence divergence between morphotypes, which suggests that they share a gene pool, or that the genetic divergence is recent. We conclude that the occurrence of distinct morphotypes is a characteristic of P. daedalea and that there does appear to be a genetic basis for separating morphotypes. However, genetic differences in P. daedalea could only be detected when combined with morphometric data.

KEY WORDS: Coral reefs · Taxonomy · Morphotypes · Indian Ocean · Platygyra daedalea

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Cite this article as: Mangubhai S, Souter P, Grahn M (2007) Phenotypic variation in the coral Platygyra daedalea in Kenya: morphometry and genetics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 345:105-115

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