Sabah, Malaysia, is well known for its extensive and diverse coral reefs. It is located on the northwestern edge of the Coral Triangle, the region with the highest marine biodiversity. Much of the marine fauna here is still unknown, especially inconspicuous animals, such as small stoloniferous octocorals, which are common on coral reefs. Here, we describe two new monospecific genera of the family Arulidae found off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia; Bunga payung gen. nov. et sp. nov. and Laeta waheedae gen. nov. et sp. nov. As well, the stoloniferan genus Phenganax Alderslade & McFadden, 2011 belonging to the family Clavulariidae is expanded with three new species, P. marumi sp. nov., P. subtilis sp. nov., and P. stokvisi sp. nov., which are all sclerite-free. Additionally, we report a possibly undescribed species, closely related to the clavulariid genera Azoriella Lopez-Gonzalez & Gili, 2001 and Cervera Lopez-Gonzalez et al., 1995. As this and other recent studies have shown, discoveries of small stoloniferous octocorals are helping to fill gaps in our knowledge of the overall systematics of Octocorallia.
Offshore Onna Village, Okinawa Island, Japan, there is a large and densely covered coral assemblage of free-living mushroom corals (Scleractinia: Fungiidae) on a reef slope at depths from 20 m to 32 m, covering an area of approximately 350 × 40 m2. From previous research, it is known that migration distances of mushroom corals may depend on coral shapes, coral sizes, substrate, and bottom inclination. However, until now there have been no published examples of regular Fungiidae movement and behavior from typhoon-exposed coastlines, such as those in the western Pacific Ocean. Our surveys across three years offshore Onna Village show that mushroom corals always move in down-slope direction from shallow to deeper reef zones. The results indicated that mushroom corals migrated faster in autumn than in other seasons, and that oval-elongate fungiids, and particularly those with a smooth underside, migrated more quickly than species with other shapes. Surprisingly, we observed a negative relationship between the presence of typhoons and migration rates. We also observed active migration by fungiid individuals to escape situations in which they were threatened to become overgrown by Acropora corals, or when they needed to escape from burial underneath coral debris.
Species identities of Goniobranchus nudibranchs with white bodies and various marginal bands have long been problematic. In this study, specimens of these Goniobranchus nudibranchs from the Philippines, Peninsular Malaysia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and Madagascar were analyzed and molecular data were obtained in order to re-examine the relationships between species within this "white Goniobranchus with marginal bands" group. The analyses clearly recovered six species groups corresponding to the described species Goniobranchusalbonares, G.preciosus, G.rubrocornutus, G.sinensis, and G.verrieri as well as one new species, G.fabulus Soong & Gosliner, sp. nov. Notably, G.preciosus, G.sinensis, G.rubrocornutus, G.verrieri, and G.fabulus Soong & Gosliner, sp. nov. exhibit color variation and polymorphism, suggesting that some aspects of color patterns (e.g., presence or absence of dorsal spots) may not always be useful in the identification of species in the "white Goniobranchus with marginal bands" group, whereas other features such as gill and rhinophore colors and the arrangement and colors of the mantle marginal bands are more diagnostic for each species.
Octocorals possess sclerites, small elements comprised of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that are important diagnostic characters in octocoral taxonomy. Among octocorals, sea pens comprise a unique order (Pennatulacea) that live in a wide range of depths. Habitat depth is considered to be important in the diversification of octocoral species, but a lack of information on sea pens has limited studies on their adaptation and evolution across depth. Here, we aimed to reveal trends of adaptation and evolution of sclerite shapes in sea pens with regards to habitat depth via phylogenetic analyses and ancestral reconstruction analyses. Colony form of sea pens is suggested to have undergone convergent evolution and the loss of axis has occurred independently across the evolution of sea pens. Divergences of sea pen taxa and of sclerite forms are suggested to depend on habitat depths. In addition, their sclerite forms may be related to evolutionary history of the sclerite and the surrounding chemical environment as well as water temperature. Three-flanged sclerites may possess the tolerance towards the environment of the deep sea, while plate sclerites are suggested to be adapted towards shallower waters, and have evolved independently multiple times. The common ancestor form of sea pens was predicted to be deep-sea and similar to family Pseudumbellulidae in form, possessing sclerites intermediate in form to those of alcyonaceans and modern sea pens such as spindles, rods with spines, and three-flanged sclerites with serrated edges sclerites, as well as having an axis and bilateral traits.
The first occurrence of the cyanobacteriosponge Terpios hoshinota was reported from coral reefs in Guam in 1973, but was only formally described in 1993. Since then, the invasive behavior of this encrusting, coral-killing sponge has been observed in many coral reefs in the West Pacific. From 2015, its occurrence has expanded westward to the Indian Ocean. Although many studies have investigated the morphology, ecology, and symbiotic cyanobacteria of this sponge, little is known of its population genetics and demography. In this study, a mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) fragment and nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) were sequenced to reveal the genetic variation of T. hoshinota collected from 11 marine ecoregions throughout the Indo-West Pacific. Both of the statistical parsimony networks based on the COI and nuclear ITS2 were dominated by a common haplotype. Pairwise F ST and Isolation-by-distance by Mantel test of ITS2 showed moderate gene flow existed among most populations in the marine ecoregions of West Pacific, Coral Triangle, and Eastern Indian Ocean, but with a restricted gene flow between these regions and Maldives in the Central Indian Ocean. Demographic analyses of most T. hoshinota populations were consistent with the mutation-drift equilibrium, except for the Sulawesi Sea and Maldives, which showed bottlenecks following recent expansion. Our results suggest that while long-range dispersal might explain the capability of T. hoshinota to spread in the IWP, stable population demography might account for the long-term persistence of T. hoshinota outbreaks on local reefs.
Given predicted increases in urbanization in tropical and subtropical regions, understanding the processes shaping urban coral reefs may be essential for anticipating future conservation challenges. We used a case study approach to identify unifying patterns of urban coral reefs and clarify the effects of urbanization on hard coral assemblages. Data were compiled from 11 cities throughout East and Southeast Asia, with particular focus on Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Naha (Okinawa). Our review highlights several key characteristics of urban coral reefs, including "reef compression" (a decline in bathymetric range with increasing turbidity and decreasing water clarity over time and relative to shore), dominance by domed coral growth forms and low reef complexity, variable city-specific inshore-offshore gradients, early declines in coral cover with recent fluctuating periods of acute impacts and rapid recovery, and colonization of urban infrastructure by hard corals. We present hypotheses for urban reef community dynamics and discuss potential of ecological engineering for corals in urban areas.
Terpios hoshinota is an aggressive, space-competing sponge that kills various stony corals. Outbreaks of this species have led to intense damage to coral reefs in many locations. Here, the first large-scale 16S rRNA gene survey across three oceans revealed that bacteria related to the taxa Prochloron, Endozoicomonas, SAR116, Ruegeria, and unclassified Proteobacteria were prevalent in T. hoshinota. A Prochloron-related bacterium was the most dominant and prevalent cyanobacterium in T. hoshinota. The complete genome of this uncultivated cyanobacterium and pigment analysis demonstrated that it has phycobiliproteins and lacks chlorophyll b, which is inconsistent with the definition of Prochloron. Furthermore, the cyanobacterium was phylogenetically distinct from Prochloron, strongly suggesting that it should be a sister taxon to Prochloron. Therefore, we proposed this symbiotic cyanobacterium as a novel species under the new genus Candidatus Paraprochloron terpiosi. Comparative genomic analyses revealed that 'Paraprochloron' and Prochloron exhibit distinct genomic features and DNA replication machinery. We also characterized the metabolic potentials of 'Paraprochloron terpiosi' in carbon and nitrogen cycling and propose a model for interactions between it and T. hoshinota. This study builds a foundation for the study of the T. hoshinota microbiome and paves the way for better understanding of ecosystems involving this coral-killing sponge.