scientific article | Zootaxa
Opresko DM, Wagner D, Montgomery AD, Brugler MR
Mesophotic coral reef surveys conducted off Maui in 2008–200 9 revealed several specimens superficially resembling the commercial black coral species Antipathes griggi Opresko 2009. After subsequent microscopic examination of the skeletal features, these colonies proved to be morphologically very similar to Aphanipathes verticillata Brook 1889, a species never before reported from the Hawaiian Islands. A comparison with samples of the type material of A . verticillata indicated that the specimens collected in Hawaiian waters differed from the type in having simplier and less dense tubercles on the skeletal spines, a character which merits the recognition of the Hawaiian population as a new subspecies, A. verticillata mauiensis. Colonies of the new subspecies exhibit considerable morphological variation; DNA analysis of fifteen specimens ruled out the possibility of the presence of a cryptic species. Further DNA investigations on specimens from various localities in the western Pacific and Indian Ocean are needed to better understand the genetic relationship between the two forms. The morphological similarity of A. verticillata mauiensis with Antipathes griggi raises questions concerning the validity of past field surveys eval uating the population size and structure of A. griggi since it is possible that the two species could easily be misidentified based on gross morphology alone. Additional studies are also needed to document the geographic and bathymetric distribution of the subspecies along the Hawaiian Island chain.