Molecular Phylogeny and Divergence Time Estimation of the Soft Coral Dendronephthya gigantea (Alcyonacea: Nephtheidae)

  • Kim, Boa (Division of EcoScience, Ewha Womans University) ;
  • Kong, So-Ra (Division of EcoScience, Ewha Womans University) ;
  • Song, Jun-Im (Division of EcoScience, Ewha Womans University) ;
  • Won, Yong-Jin (Division of EcoScience, Ewha Womans University)
  • Published : 2008.11.30


Soft coral Dendronephthya gigantea (Verrill, 1864) is a conspicuous species dominating shallow sea waters of Jejudo Island, Korea. Recently its whole mitochondrial genome sequencing was completed by us and the sequence information provided an opportunity to test the age of Octocorallia and time of evolutionary separation between some representative orders of the subclass Octocorallia. Molecular phylogenetic analyses based on 13 mitochondrial protein encoding genes revealed a polyphyletic relationship among octocorallians representing two orders (Alcyonacea and Gorgonacea) and four families (Alcyoniidae, Nephtheidae, Briareidae, and Gorgoniidae). Estimates of divergence times among octocorallians indicate that the first splitting might occur around end of or after Cretaceous period (50-79 million years ago (Ma)). The age is relatively young compared to the long history of stony sea corals (>240 Ma). Taken together our result suggests a possible relatively recent radiating evolution at least in the order Alcyonacea and Gorgonacea. Molecular dating and phylogenetic analysis based on much broader taxon sampling and many genes might give an insight into this interesting hypothesis.


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