Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Complete mitochondrial genome sequences of Atlantic representatives of the invasive Pacific coral species Tubastraea coccinea and T. tagusensis (Scleractinia, Dendrophylliidae): implications for species identification.

Abstract

Members of the azooxanthellate coral genus Tubastraea are invasive species with particular concern because they have become established and are fierce competitors in the invaded areas in many parts of the world. Pacific Tubastraea species are spreading fast throughout the Atlantic Ocean, occupying over 95% of the available substrate in some areas and out-competing native endemic species. Approximately half of all known coral species are azooxanthellate but these are seriously under-represented compared to zooxanthellate corals in terms of the availability of mitochondrial (mt) genome data. In the present study, the complete mt DNA sequences of Atlantic individuals of the invasive scleractinian species Tubastraea coccinea and Tubastraea tagusensis were determined and compared to the GenBank reference sequence available for a Pacific "T. coccinea" individual. At 19,094 bp (compared to 19,070 bp for the GenBank specimen), the mt genomes assembled for the Atlantic T. coccinea and T. tagusensis were among the longest sequence determined to date for "Complex" scleractinians. Comparisons of genomes data showed that the "T. coccinea" sequence deposited on GenBank was more closely related to that from Dendrophyllia arbuscula than to the Atlantic Tubastraea spp., in terms of genome length and base pair similarities. This was confirmed by phylogenetic analysis, suggesting that the former was misidentified and might actually be a member from the genus Dendrophyllia. In addition, although in general the COX1 locus has a slow evolutionary rate in Scleractinia, it was the most variable region of the Tubastraea mt genome and can be used as markers for genus or species identification. Given the limited data available for azooxanthellate corals, the results presented here represent an important contribution to our understanding of phylogenetic relationships and the evolutionary history of the Scleractinia.