Breaking up and getting together: Evolution of symbiosis and cloning by fission in sea anemones (genus Anthopleura)

  • Geller J
  • Walton E
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Clonal growth and symbiosis with photosynthetic zooxanthellae typify many genera of marine organisms, suggesting that these traits are usually conserved. However, some, such as Anthopleura, a genus of sea anemones, contain members lacking one or both of these traits. The evolutionary origins of these traits in 13 species of Anthopleura were inferred from a molecular phylogeny derived from 395 bp of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene and 410 bp of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit III gene. Sequences from these genes were combined and analyzed by maximum-parsimony, maximum-likelihood, and neighbor-joining methods. Best trees from each method indicated a minimum of four changes in growth mode and that symbiosis with zooxanthellae has arisen independently in eastern and western Pacific species. Alternative trees in which species sharing growth modes or the symbiotic condition were constrained to be monophyletic were significantly worse than best trees. Although clade composition was mostly consistent with geographic sympatry, A. artemisia from California was included in the western Pacific clade. Likewise, A. midori from Japan was not placed in a clade containing only other Asian congeners. The history of Anthopleura includes repeated shifts between clonality and solitariness, repeated attainment of symbiosis with zooxanthellae, and intercontinental dispersal.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Anthopleura
  • Clonal growth
  • Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny
  • Solitary growth
  • Symbiosis
  • Zooxanthellae

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  • Jonathan B. Geller

  • Erica D. Walton

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