Zoological Studies

Vol. 39 No. 3, 2000

A Taxonomic Reappraisal of Montipora digitata Based on Genetic and Morphometric Evidence

Ben Stobart*

Department of Marine Biology, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia

Ben Stobart (2000) Recent molecular and reproductive studies have demonstrated that 2 morphs of Montipora digitata are different species. In this study, skeletal morphology was examined to determine whether the species can be identified using traditional taxonomic methods, and to establish suitable names for the species. Univariate and multivariate analyses based on 5 skeletal characters revealed that the 2 species do differ in morphology. However, overlap of these characters renders them unsuitable for species identification. A further character, septal shape, was found to be species specific. Examination of museum specimens using septal shape to distinguish the species revealed that the 2 species correspond to the holotypes for M. digitata (Dana 1846) and M. tortuosa (Dana 1846). This study highlights the usefulness of a multiple- technique approach to coral taxonomy, with each alternative technique acting as a test for the other, which reduces the chance of an erroneous conclusion.

Key words: Coral, Montipora, Taxonomy, Morphometrics.

*Correspondence: Carrer del Rosari 5, Secelles, Mallorca 07140, Spain. E-mail: benoir@maptel.es