New Species of Closely Related Endosymbiotic Dinoflagellates in the Greater Caribbean have Niches Corresponding to Host Coral Phylogeny

Allison M. Lewis, Andrea N. Chan, Todd C. LaJeunesse

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28 Scopus citations


Symbiotic dinoflagellates in the genus Breviolum (formerly Symbiodinium Clade B) dominate coral communities in shallow waters across the Greater Caribbean. While some formally described species exist, mounting genetic, and ecological evidence indicate that numerous more comprise this genus, many of which are closely related. To test this, colonies of common reef-building corals were sampled across a large geographical range. Phylogenetic and population genetic markers then used to examine evolutionary divergence and delineate boundaries of genetic recombination. Three new candidate species were distinguished by fixed differences in nucleotide sequences from nuclear and chloroplast DNA. Population connectivity was evident within each lineage over thousands of kilometers, however, substantial genetic structure persisted between lineages co-occurring within sampling locations, signifying reproductive isolation. While geographically widespread with overlapping distributions, each species is ecologically distinct, exhibiting specific mutualisms with phylogenetically distinct coral hosts. Moreover, significant differences in mean cell sizes provide some morphological evidence substantiating formal species distinctions. In providing evidence that satisfies the biological, phylogenetic, ecological, and morphological species concepts, we classify and formally name Breviolum faviinorum n. sp., primarily associated with Caribbean corals belonging to the Caribbean subfamily Faviinae; B. meandrinium n. sp., associated with corals belonging to the family Meandrinidae; and B. dendrogyrum n. sp., a symbiont harbored exclusively by the threatened coral Dendrogyra cylindrus. These findings support the primary importance of niche diversification (i.e. host habitat) in the speciation of symbiotic dinoflagellates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-482
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Eukaryotic Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology


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