Molecular analyses are transforming our understanding of the evolution of scleractinian corals and conflict with traditional classification, which is based on skeletal morphology. A new classification system, which integrates molecular and morphological data, is essential for documenting patterns of biodiversity and establishing priorities for marine conservation, as well as providing the morphological characters needed for linking present-day corals with fossil species. The present monograph is the first in a series whose goal is to develop such an integrated system. It addresses the taxonomic relationships of 55 Recent zooxanthellate genera (one new) in seven families (one new), which were previously assigned to the suborder Faviina (eight genera are transferred to incertae sedis). The present monograph has two objectives. First, we introduce the higher-level classification system for the 46 genera whose relationships are clear. Second, we formally revise the taxonomy of those corals belonging to the newly discovered family-level clade (restricted today to the western Atlantic and Caribbean regions); this revised family Mussidae consists of ten genera (one of which is new) and 26 species that were previously assigned to the ‘traditional’ families Faviidae and Mussidae. To guide in discovering morphologic characters diagnostic of higher-level taxa, we mapped a total of 38 morphologic characters [19 macromorphology, eight micromorphology, 11 microstructure] onto a molecular tree consisting of 67 species [22 Indo-Pacific and seven Atlantic species in the traditional family Faviidae; 13 Indo-Pacific and ten Atlantic species in the traditional family Mussidae; 13 species in the traditional families Merulinidae (5), Pectiniidae (7), and Trachyphylliidae (1); two Atlantic species of traditional Montastraea], and trace character histories using parsimony. To evaluate the overall effectiveness of morphological data in phylogeny reconstruction, we performed morphology-based phylogenetic analyses using 27 (80 states) of the 38 characters, and compared morphological trees with molecular trees. The results of the ancestral state reconstructions revealed extensive homoplasy in almost all morphological characters. Family- and subfamily-level molecular clades [previously identified as XVII−XXI] are best distinguished on the basis of the shapes of septal teeth and corresponding microstructure. The newly revised family Mussidae (XXI) has septal teeth with regular pointed tips (a symplesiomorphy) and a stout blocky appearance. It has two subfamilies, Mussinae and Faviinae. The subfamily Mussinae is distinguished by spine-shaped teeth and widely spaced costoseptal clusters of calcification centres. The subfamily Faviinae is distinguished by blocky, pointed tricorne or paddle-shaped teeth with elliptical bases, transverse structures such as carinae that cross the septal plane, and well-developed aligned granules. Defining diagnostic characters for the broader data set is more challenging. In analyses of taxonomic subsets of the data set that were defined by clade, morphological phylogenetic analyses clearly distinguished the families Mussidae (XXI) and Lobophylliidae (XIX), as well as the two subfamilies of Mussidae (Mussinae, Faviinae), with one exception (Homophyllia australis). However, analyses of the entire 67-species data set distinguished the family Lobophylliidae (XIX), but not the Merulinidae (XVII) and not the newly defined Mussidae (XXI), although the subfamily Mussinae was recovered as monophyletic. Some lower-level relationships within the Merulinidae (XVII) agree with molecular results, but this particular family is especially problematic and requires additional molecular and morphological study. Future work including fossils will not only allow estimation of divergence times but also facilitate examination of the relationship between these divergences and changes in the environment and biogeography.
Published 2012. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 166, 465–529.