Contributions to Zoology, 81 (3) – 2012Francesca Benzoni; Roberto Arrigoni; Fabrizio Stefani; Bastian T. Reijnen; Simone Montano; Bert W. Hoeksema: Phylogenetic position and taxonomy of Cycloseris explanulata and C. wellsi (Scleractinia: Fungiidae): lost mushroom corals find their way home

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The scleractinian species Psammocora explanulata and Coscinaraea wellsi were originally classified in the family Siderastreidae, but in a recent morpho-molecular study it appeared that they are more closely related to each other and to the Fungiidae than to any siderastreid taxon. A subsequent morpho-molecular study of the Fungiidae provided new insights regarding the phylogenetic relationships within that family. In the present study existing molecular data sets of both families were analyzed jointly with those of new specimens and sequences of P. expla­nulata and C. wellsi. The results indicate that both species actually belong to the Cycloseris clade within the family Fungiidae. A reappraisal of their morphologic characters based on museum specimens and recently collected material substantiate the molecular results. Consequently, they are renamed Cycloseris ex­planulata and C. wellsi. They are polystomatous and encrusting like C. mokai, another species recently added to the genus, whereas all Cycloseris species were initially thought to be monostomatous and free-living. In the light of the new findings, the taxonomy and distribution data of C. explanulata and C. wellsi have been updated and revised. Finally, the ecological implications of the evolutionary history of the three encrusting polystomatous Cycloseris species and their free-living monostomatous congeners are discussed.