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Extensive Cryptic Species Diversity And Fine-scale Endemism In The Marine Red Alga Portieria In The Philippines

Dioli Ann Payo, Frederik Leliaert, Heroen Verbruggen, Sofie D'hondt, Hilconida P. Calumpong, Olivier De Clerck

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We investigated species diversity and distribution patterns of the marine red alga Portieria in the Philippine archipelago. Species boundaries were tested based on mitochondrial, plastid and nuclear encoded loci, using a general mixed Yule-coalescent (GMYC) model-based approach and a Bayesian multilocus species delimitation method. The outcome of the GMYC analysis of the mitochondrial encoded cox 2-3 dataset was highly congruent with the multilocus analysis. In stark contrast with the current morphology-based assumption that the genus includes a single, widely distributed species in the Indo-West Pacific ( Portieria hornemannii ), DNA-based species delimitation resulted in the recognition of 21 species within the Philippines. Species distributions were found to be highly structured with most species restricted to island groups within the archipelago. These extremely narrow species ranges and high levels of intra-archipelagic endemism contrast with the wide-held belief that marine organisms generally have large geographical ranges and that endemism is at most restricted to the archipelagic level. Our results indicate that speciation in the marine environment may occur at spatial scales smaller than 100 km, comparable with some terrestrial systems. Our finding of fine-scale endemism has important consequences for marine conservation and management.