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Mol Biol Evol. 1997 May;14(5):465-73.

Variation in the ribosomal internal transcribed spacers and 5.8S rDNA among five species of Acropora (Cnidaria; Scleractinia): patterns of variation consistent with reticulate evolution.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia.


The ITS sequences of Acropora spp. are the shortest so far identified in any metazoan and are among the shortest seen in eukaryotes; ITS1 was 70-80 bases, and ITS2 was 100-112 bases. The ITS sequences were also highly variable, but base composition and secondary structure prediction indicate that divergent sequence variants are unlikely to be pseudogenes. The pattern of variation was unusual in several other respects: (1) two distinct ITS2 types were detected in both A. hyacinthus and A. cytherea, species known to hybridize in vitro with high success rates, and a putative intermediate ITS2 form was also detected in A. cytherea; (2) A. valida was found to contain highly (29%) diverged ITS1 variants; and (3) A. longicyathus contained two distinct 5.8S rDNA types. These data are consistent with a reticulate evolutionary history for the genus Acropora.

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