- Molecular evidence of cryptic speciation in the "cosmopolitan" excavating sponge Cliona celata (Porifera, Clionaidae)
- Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
- Volume | Issue number
- 56 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Over the past several decades molecular tools have shown an enormous potential to aid in the clarification of species boundaries in the marine realm, particularly in morphologically simple groups. In this paper we report a case of cryptic speciation in an allegedly cosmopolitan and ecologically important species—the excavating sponge Cliona celata (Clionaidae, Hadromerida). In the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean C. celata displays a discontinuous distribution of its putative growth stages (boring, encrusting, and massive) leading us to investigate its specific status. Phylogenetic reconstructions of mitochondrial (COI, Atp8) and nuclear (28S) gene fragments revealed levels of genetic diversity and divergence compatible with interspecific relationships. We therefore demonstrate C. celata as constituting a species complex comprised of at least four morphologically indistinct species, each showing a far more restricted distribution: two species on the Atlantic European coasts and two on the Mediterranean and adjacent Atlantic coasts (Macaronesian islands). Our results provide further confirmation that the different morphotypes do indeed constitute either growth stages or ecologically adapted phenotypes as boring and massive forms were found in two of the four uncovered species. We additionally provide an overview of the cases of cryptic speciation which have been reported to date within the Porifera, and highlight how taxonomic crypsis may confound scientific interpretation and hamper biotechnological advancement. Our work together with previous studies suggests that overconservative systematic traditions but also morphological stasis have led to genetic complexity going undetected and that a DNA-assisted taxonomy may play a key role in uncovering the hidden diversity in this taxonomic group.
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