News & Announcements

6th International Symposium on Deep Sea Corals Posted on: November 7, 2016

Nicole Bellaflores-Mejia
Research Project Summer 2016

Molecular characterization of mesophotic black corals (antipatharians) from the NW Gulf of Mexico

Nicole Bellaflores-Mejia1, Craig Dawes1, Colin Joseph1, Juanita Marin1, Sheila Moaleman1, Lysna Paul1, Ralph Alcendor1, Tatiana Voza1, Emma Hickerson2, Marissa Nuttall2, Dennis Opresko3, Mercer R. Brugler1,3,4

1) NYC College of Technology (CUNY), 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

2) Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 4700 Avenue U, Bldg. 216, Galveston, TX 77551

3) Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, 10th St & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560

4) American Museum of Natural History, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

Black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia: Antipatharia) are cosmopolitan in the world’s oceans and live as deep as 8,600m. To date, 7 families, 42 genera, and 247 species have been described. We recently participated in a research expedition (NW Gulf of Mexico 1) aboard the R/V Manta. We utilized the ROV Mohawk to conduct video and collection-based surveys at regional banks in the NW Gulf of Mexico that are not currently protected by the National Marine Sanctuary regulations. These data were used in NOAA’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to support expansion of the sanctuary boundaries in an effort to protect critical habitats for recreationally and commercially important fish and threatened or endangered marine species of whales, sea turtles, and corals. We also surveyed the banks inside and primarily outside the sanctuary for Acanthopathes thyoides and Elatopathes abietina, as well as undescribed species. Based on morphology, Acanthopathes and Elatopathes are currently classified in the same family; however, they do not group together in a molecular phylogeny. These species are considered ‘wandering taxa’ as they change position depending on the gene (mitochondrial v. nuclear) or algorithm (Parsimony v. Likelihood v. Bayesian) used to build the phylogeny. We successfully collected two A. cf. thyoides and six E. cf. abietina. and sequenced three mitochondrial intergenic regions (igrN, igrW, igrC) and three nuclear genes (18S, 28S, ITS2) for all samples. Based on our results, we may have discovered a new species of Elatopathes and a new species of black coral that is closely related to Antipathes atlantica and Antipathes furcata. By elucidating a putative new species of Elatopathes, we have increased support for Elatopathes grouping sister to the Myriopathidae and Stylopathidae clade providing a more stable phylogenic position.

2) Elucidating novel species of deep-sea black coral (Order Antipatharia) from the Hawaiian Archipelago

6th International Symposium on Deep Sea Corals6th International Symposium on Deep Sea Corals