The Zancleidae is a hydrozoan family that currently comprises three genera and 42 nominal species. The validity of numerous taxa in this family still needs to be assessed with integrative analyses and complete life cycle descriptions. The vast majority of its species live symbiotically with other organisms, among which cheilostomate bryozoans are the most common hosts. These bryozoan-associated zancleids are host-specific and encompass all species of the genera Halocoryne and Zanclella, as well as several species in the genus Zanclea. Zancleids show variable morphologies, including highly reduced polyps and medusae. Their phylogenetic history is uncertain due to the often intergrading morphologies and the shortage of molecular data. In the present study, two species of Zanclea from the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea are analysed, using morphological and DNA-based approaches. Morphological analyses of the polyp and medusa stages show that, despite a general resemblance with each other and with Zanclella diabolica, the two species differ in some characters, and this is supported also by molecular investigations. The DNA analyses show that the two species are monophyletic and closely related, but divergent from other Zanclea lineages. This newly recovered clade may correspond with the genus Zanclella or with a cryptic genus. The lack of both morphological and molecular data for several zancleid species did not allow to address this issue. Additionally, the single-and multi-locus phylogeny reconstructions reveal that both the family Zancleidae and the genus Zanclea are polyphyletic taxa, since they are composed of at least three divergent lineages. Most zancleid species have polyps and medusae similar to other closely related taxa, and this conserved general morphology poses a challenge in the delimitation of species, genera and even families in this group. Consequently, further conjunct morphological and molecular efforts are strongly needed to clarify the diversity and evolution of the family Zancleida as a whole.
An integrated approach using morphological and genetic data is needed to disentangle taxonomic uncertainties affecting the hydrozoan families Sphaerocorynidae and Zancleopsidae. Here we used this approach to accurately characterise species in these families, identify the previously unknown polyp stages of the genera Euphysilla and Zancleopsis, which were originally described exclusively based on the medusa stages, describe a new sphaerocorynid genus and species, and assess the phylogenetic position of the two families within the Capitata. The monotypic genus Astrocoryne was found to be a synonym of Zancleopsis. Astrocoryne cabela was therefore transferred to the genus Zancleopsis as Zancleopsis cabela comb. nov. The new polyp-based genus and species Kudacoryne diaphana gen. nov. sp. nov. was erected within the Sphaerocorynidae. Both taxa are primarily based on genetic data, but the introduction of this new genus was made necessary by the fact that it clustered with the genera Heterocoryne and Euphysilla, despite showing Sphaerocoryne-like polyps. Interestingly, the species analysed in this work showed contrasting biogeographical patterns. Based on our data and literature records, some species appear to have a wide circumtropical range, whereas others are limited to few localities. Overall, these results lay the ground for future investigations aimed at resolving the taxonomy and systematics of these two enigmatic families.
The scleractinian family Lobophylliidae is undergoing a major taxonomic revision thanks to the combination of molecular and morphological data. In this study, we investigate the evolutionary relationships and the macro- and micromorphology of six nominal coral species belonging to two of the nine molecular clades of the Lobophylliidae, clades A and B, and of Symphyllia wilsoni, a lobophylliid species analyzed from a molecular point of view for the first time. Sequence data from mitochondrial DNA (COI and the intergenic spacer between COI and l-rRNA), and nuclear DNA (histone H3 and ITS region) are used to generate robust molecular phylogenies and a median-joining haplotype network. Molecular results are strongly in agreement with detailed observations of gross- and fine-scale morphology of skeletons, leading to the formal revision of the genera Micromussa and Homophyllia and the description of two newly discovered zooxanthellate shallow-water species, Micromussa pacifica sp. nov. Benzoni & Arrigoni and Micromussa indiana sp. nov. Benzoni & Arrigoni, and a new genus, Australophyllia gen. nov. Benzoni & Arrigoni. In particular, Acanthastrea lordhowensis and Montastraea multipunctata are moved into Micromussa, A. hillae is synonymized with A. bowerbanki and is transferred to Homophyllia, and a revised diagnosis for both genera is provided. Micromussa pacifica sp. nov. is described from the Gambier Islands with its distribution spanning New Caledonia and eastern Australia. Despite a superficial resemblance with Homophyllia australis, it has distinctive macroand micromorphological septal features. Micromussa indiana sp. nov., previously identified as M. amakusensis, is here described from the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea as a distinct species that is genetically separated from M. amakusensis and is morphologically distinct from the latter due to its smaller corallite size and lower number of septa. Finally, molecular trees show that S. wilsoni is closely related, but molecularly separated from clades A and B, and, also based on a unique combination of corallite and sub-corallite characters, the species is moved into Australophyllia gen. nov. These findings confirm the need for using both genetic and morphological datasets for the ongoing taxonomic revision of scleractinian corals.