Nav: Home

Is it one or two species? The case of the cluster anemones

September 29, 2020

If you dive in the Mediterranean Sea, the cluster anemone is among the most fascinating and magnificent corals you could see. You can find it on rocks or sponges, in scarcely lit areas such as sea caves and gorges, where it clusters in dense agglomerations resembling yellow and orange carpets. In a study published in Scientific Reports, a research group of the University of Bologna found evidence that some corals commonly labelled as "cluster anemones" may belong to different species.

Indeed, there are two types of Parazoanthus axinellae and they differ in size, colour and preferred substratum. Researchers sampled these corals in 11 locations of the Mediterranean Sea - from Banyuls-Sur-Mer (France) to Rovinj (Croatia), through Portofino, Olbia, Gallipoli and Chioggia (Italy) - and compared their DNA.

"We found evidence of marked genetic isolation between these two morphotypes of Parazoanthus axinellae. This leads us to believe that they may belong to two different species", explains Federica Constantini, one of the authors of the study who is also a professor at the Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Sciences of the University of Bologna. "We will need further investigations to confirm these hypotheses. Information on species composition and marine populations connectivity patterns is fundamental to devise effective actions for safeguarding biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea".

Which are, then, these two types of cluster anemone and how are they different? The first type (also known as "Slender" type) is spread across the entire Mediterranean Sea (including the Adriatic Coast) and presents a light-yellow colour, an elongated trunk and long, thin tentacles. The second type (also known as "Stocky" type) is to be found in the north-western Mediterranean and presents a deep orange colour, and a shorter, thicker trunk and tentacles. Moreover, the "Slender" morphotype mainly lives on the sponges of the genus Axinella, while the "Stocky" type lives primarily on rocky substrata.

Through their analyses, researchers also found that the "Slender" morphotype is genetically closer to two coral species that also colonise sponges but live in the Caribbean (Parazoanthus anguicomus and Parazoanthus capensis). On the other hand, the "Stocky" morphotype revealed genetic similarities with coral species that live in the shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean (Parazoanthus elongatus and Parazoanthus juanfernandezii) and with one species that instead lives in the deep waters of the Eastern Atlantic Ocean (Parazoanthus aliceae). None of these species was ever found colonizing sponges as they live primarily on rocky substrata.

In recent years, cluster anemones have experienced high mortality rates in some areas of the north-western Mediterranean because the temperature of the water is unusually high and periods of high temperatures are unusually long. These phenomena caused the proliferation of cyanobacteria that weakened the corals and, in some cases, led to the death of the corals themselves.

"The existence of 'complex of species' may render the management and conservation strategies of these corals difficult. Indeed, different species may present distinctive characteristics. For example, they may present different resistance to climate change-induced stress. These peculiarities could call for different management strategies", says Professor Costantini. "Finally, it should be taken into consideration that the diversity we observed within the Parazoanthidae family may be also found among other species that live in the fragile and delicate coralligenous habitat of the Mediterranean Sea".
This study was published in Scientific Reports with the title "Evidence of genetic isolation between two Mediterranean morphotypes of Parazoanthus axinellae". The research group carrying out the study includes Adriana Villamor, Lorenzo F. Signorini, Federica Costantini, Marko Terzin and Marco Abbiati from the Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Sciences of the University of Bologna.

Università di Bologna

Related Biology Articles:

Experimental Biology press materials available now
Though the Experimental Biology (EB) 2020 meeting was canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, EB research abstracts are being published in the April 2020 issue of The FASEB Journal.
Structural biology: Special delivery
Bulky globular proteins require specialized transport systems for insertion into membranes.
Cell biology: All in a flash!
Scientists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have developed a tool to eliminate essential proteins from cells with a flash of light.
A biology boost
Assistance during the first years of a biology major leads to higher retention of first-generation students.
Cell biology: Compartments and complexity
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich biologists have taken a closer look at the subcellular distribution of proteins and metabolic intermediates in a model plant.
Cell biology: The complexity of division by two
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers have identified a novel protein that plays a crucial role in the formation of the mitotic spindle, which is essential for correct segregation of a full set of chromosomes to each daughter cell during cell division.
Cell biology: Dynamics of microtubules
Filamentous polymers called microtubules play vital roles in chromosome segregation and molecular transport.
The biology of color
Scientists are on a threshold of a new era of color science with regard to animals, according to a comprehensive review of the field by a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by professor Tim Caro at UC Davis.
Kinky biology
How and why proteins fold is a problem that has implications for protein design and therapeutics.
A new tool to decipher evolutionary biology
A new bioinformatics tool to compare genome data has been developed by teams from the Max F.
More Biology News and Biology Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.