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Looking for morphological evidence of cryptic species in Asterina Nardo, 1834 (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). The redescription of Asterina pancerii (Gasco, 1870) and the description of two new species.
Three species of the genus Asterina are known to inhabit the Mediterranean Sea and northeastern Atlantic Ocean: Asterina gibbosa (Pennant, 1777), A. pancerii (Gasco, 1870) and A. phylactica Emson and Crump, 1979. Differentiation of these species has been primarily based only on subtle characters (some highly debatable), such as colour or size. Therefore, this study aims to review the morphological data characterising members of the genus, to incorporate new characters that may clarify morphological analyses and to couple morphological data with molecular evidence of differentiation based on the analysis of partial sequences of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) and 18S rDNA (18S) genes and two anonymous nuclear loci (AgX2 and AgX5). The different lineages and cryptic species identified from the molecular analysis were then morphologically characterised, which was challenging given the limited number of diagnostic characters. Two of the five monophyletic lineages obtained molecularly (COI divergence >4%), further supported by differences in morphological characters and reproductive behaviour, are proposed as new species: Asterina martinbarriosi sp. n. from the Canary Islands, Spain (eastern central Atlantic Ocean) and Asterina vicentae sp. n. from Tarragona, NE Spain (western Mediterranean Sea).
IS17024 Accepted 09 August 2017
© CSIRO 2017