Invertebrate Systematics Invertebrate Systematics Society
Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

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The zoogeography of extant rhabdopleurid hemichordates (Pterobranchia: Graptolithina), with a new species from the Mediterranean Sea

Elena Beli , Giorgio Aglieri , Francesca Strano , Davide Maggioni , Max J. Telford , Stefano Piraino , Christopher B. Cameron


The early origin and evolutionary radiation of graptolites (Hemichordata: Pterobranchia) is a story told almost entirely in the fossil record, but for four extant species of the genus Rhabdopleura. Here we report the discovery of a fifth species, Rhabdopleura recondita sp. nov., at a depth range of -2 to -70 m from the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, always associated with bryozoans in coralligenous habitats. This is the first pterobranch record in Italian waters, and the second in the Mediterranean Sea. The new species is characterized by a) tubaria with smooth creeping tubes adherent to the inside of empty bryozoan zooecia; b) erect outer tubes with a graptolite, fusellar-like organization; and c) zooids that extend from a black stolon, which is free from the creeping tube. Each of the paired feeding arms has two rows of tentacles that do not extend to the arm tip. The distal ends of the arms, the collar, and the cephalic shield are replete with black granules. Phylogenetic analyses of individual and concatenated gene sequences of mitochondrial 16S rDNA and nuclear 18S rDNA support the validity of R. recondita as a new species. Finally, we discuss the global biogeographic and habitat distributions of the extant Rhabdopleura representatives.

IS17021  Accepted 31 May 2017

© CSIRO 2017