A genetics-based description of Symbiodinium minutum sp. nov. and S. psygmophilum sp. nov. (dinophyceae), two dinoflagellates symbiotic with cnidaria

Todd C. Lajeunesse, John E. Parkinson, James D. Reimer

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Traditional approaches for describing species of morphologically cryptic and often unculturable forms of endosymbiotic dinoflagellates are problematic. Two new species in the genus Symbiodinium Freudenthal 1962 are described using an integrative evolutionary genetics approach: Symbiodinium minutum sp. nov. are harbored by widespread tropical anemones in the genus Aiptasia; and Symbiodinium psygmophilum sp. nov. are harbored by subtropical and temperate stony corals (e.g., Astrangia, Cladocora, and Oculina) from the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Both new species are readily distinguished from each other by phylogenetic disparity and reciprocal monophyly of several nucleic acid sequences including nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacers 1 and 2, single copy microsatellite flanker Sym15, mitochondrial cytochrome b, and the chloroplast 23S rRNA gene. Such molecular evidence, combined with well-defined differences in cell size, physiology (thermal tolerance), and ecology (host compatibility) establishes these organisms as distinct species. Future descriptions of Symbiodinium spp. will need to emphasize genetics-based descriptions because significant morphological overlap in this group obscures large differences in ecology and evolutionary divergence. By using molecular evidence based on conserved and rapidly evolving genes analyzed from a variety of samples, species boundaries are defined under the precepts of Evolutionary and Biological Species Concepts without reliance on an arbitrary genetic distance metric. Because ecological specialization arises through genetic adaptations, the Ecological Species Concept can also serve to delimit many host-specific Symbiodinium spp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1380-1391
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science

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