A single zoanthid specimen closely resembling Neozoanthus uchina Reimer, Irei & Fujii, 2012 (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Zoantharia: Neozoanthidae) was recently collected from shallow mesophotic waters (38 m) in Nagura Bay, Ishigaki Island, southern Ryukyu Islands, Japan. Phylogenetic analyses indicate a small but significant difference in mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA sequences between this specimen and the other two Pacific species of Neozoanthus, N. uchina from the central Ryukyu Islands and N. caleyi Reimer, Irei & Fujii, 2012 from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This single specimen is the first distributional record of this genus in the northern hemisphere south of Okinawa Island, Japan. We briefly discuss the possibility identity of this specimen, and preliminarily designate it as Neozoanthus cf. uchina based on morphological similarities (partial sand encrustation, tentacle count) with N. uchina. Future research into Neozoanthus in the Yaeyama Islands is needed to clearly ascertain its true status. Furthermore, this research demonstrates deeper mesophotic regions may harbor unknown zoanthid diversity.
Japan - Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa)