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Mol Biol Evol. 1999 Nov;16(11):1607-13.

Reproductive and genetic evidence for a reticulate evolutionary history of mass-spawning corals.

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  • 1National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Japan.


Reef-building corals, which reproduce through simultaneous multispecies spawning, are thought to hybridize frequently, and it is hypothesized that they have evolved in repeated rounds of species separation and fusion. We conducted cross-fertilization experiments and molecular analyses with a number of mass-spawning coral species in the genus Acropora. A high rate of interspecific fertilization occurred between some species despite very different morphologies. The hybrid larvae developed normally and contained an allelic sequence transmitted from each parent, suggesting common diploid hybridization. Molecular phylogenetic analyses provided strong evidence for a gene pool shared between the hybridizing species. These reproductive and genetic characteristics are consistent with a species complex formed under the separation/fusion processes predicted for a reticulate evolutionary history.

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