Invertebrate Systematics Invertebrate Systematics Society
Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

Morphological and molecular characterisation of Abyssoanthus nankaiensis,, a new family, new genus and new species of deep-sea zoanthid (Anthozoa : Hexacorallia : Zoantharia) from a north-west Pacific methane cold seep

James D. Reimer A B F , Frederic Sinniger C D , Yoshihiro Fujiwara A , Satoshi Hirano E and Tadashi Maruyama A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Research Program for Marine Biology and Ecology, Extremobiosphere Research Center, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 237-0061, Japan.

B Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, Faculty of Science, University of the Ryukyus, 1 Senbaru, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan.

C Department of Zoology and Animal Biology, Molecular Systematic Group, Science III, University of Geneva, 30 quai Ernest-Ansermet, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.

D Centre d’Oceanologie de Marseille, UMR CNRS 6540 DIMAR, Station Marine d’Endoume, rue de la Batterie des Lions, Universite de la Mediterranee, 13007 Marseille, France.

E Institute for Research on Earth Evolution, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 237-0061, Japan.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Invertebrate Systematics 21(3) 255-262
Submitted: 10 March 2006  Accepted: 19 April 2007   Published: 27 June 2007


The order Zoantharia (= Zoanthiniaria, Zoanthidea) remains one of the most taxonomically neglected anthozoan groups, primarily owing to the difficulty of examining the internal morphology of sand-encrusted zoanthids, upon which classification has been largely based until very recently. Additionally, relatively few zoanthid species (all belonging to the genus Epizoanthus) have been properly described from the deep-sea. Numerous individuals of an unidentified sediment-encrusting zoanthid-like species were observed and sampled during a Shinkai 6500 deep-sea submersible dive at a methane cold seep (depth 3259 m) off Muroto at the Nankai Trough, Japan. Unlike previously described deep-sea zoanthids, Abyssoanthus nankaiensis, gen. et sp. nov. (Abyssoanthidae fam. nov.) was found to be non-colonial, free-living (non-commensal), and, uniquely, on mudstone in the vicinity of a methane cold seep. Morphologically, A. nankaiensis, gen. et sp. nov. is characterised by its relatively uniform polyp diameter from oral to aboral end with 19–22 mesenteries. Additionally, DNA (mitochondrial 16S rDNA and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase c subunit I DNA) sequences obtained from these samples also unambiguously place this specimen in a previously undescribed and new family within the order Zoantharia. This is the first reported zoanthid species from a methane cold seep or other so-called ‘extreme’ environment, and the first molecular characterisation of any such deep-sea zoanthid.


The authors are grateful to Dr Kiyotaka Takishita (genetic analyses), Dr Shusuke Ono, Dr Junzo Tsukahara, and Atsushi Iwama (Kagoshima University) (morphology) for their expert advice. At JAMSTEC, Masaru Kawato helped with sequencing. Drs Chiaki Kato, Takako Sato, and Tadao Yoshida (JAMSTEC) kindly supplied sample information and images. We also wish to thank the crew of the R/V Yokosuka and the Shinkai 6500. Dr Katsunori Fujikura (JAMSTEC), Dr Hiroshi Miyake (Shin-Enoshima Aquarium) and Dr Chiaki Kato kindly informed us of the potential for Abyssoanthus samples at other locations. Dr Masashi Tsuchiya (JAMSTEC) helped point us in the right direction in cross-section preparation, and Katsunori Uematsu (JAMSTEC) offered his technical advice on microscopy. Fumihito Iwase of the Biological Institute on Kuroshio in Otsuki, Kochi, Japan kindly went out his way to obtain Isaurus sp. IKO1 samples for this study. Dr Takashi Okutani (JAMSTEC) generously provided advice on the taxonomic structure of this paper. We appreciate the comments from two anonymous reviewers that greatly improved the manuscript.


Beaulieu S. E. (2001) Life on glass houses: sponge stalk communities in the deep-sea. Marine Biology 138, 803–817.
CrossRef |

Beagley C. T., Okimoto R., Wolstenholme D. R. (1998) The mitochondrial genome of the sea anemone Metridium senile (Cnidaria): introns, a paucity of tRNA genes, and a near-standard genetic code. Genetics 148, 1091–1108.
PubMed |

Daly M., Fautin D. G., Cappola V. A. (2003) Systematics of the Hexacorallia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society 139, 419–437.
CrossRef |

Folmer O., Black M., Hoeh W., Lutz R., Vrijenhoek R. (1994) DNA primers for amplification of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I from diverse metazoan invertebrates. Molecular Marine Biology and Biotechnology 3, 292–299.

Guindon S., Gascuel O. (2003) A simple, fast, and accurate algorithm to estimate large phylogenies by maximum likelihood. Systematic Biology 52, 696–704.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Haddon A. C., Shackleton A. M. (1891) Reports on the zoological collections made in Torres Strait by Professor A.C. Haddon, 1888–1889. Actinae: I. Zoantheae. Scientific Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society 4, 673–701.

Hasegawa M., Kishino H., Yano T. (1985) Dating of the human-ape splitting by a molecular clock of mitochondrial DNA. Journal of Molecular Evolution 22, 160–174.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Herberts C. (1972) Etude systematique de quelques zoanthaires temperes et tropicaux. Téthys suppl 3, 69–156.

Kojima S., Ohta S., Yamamoto T., Miura T., Fujiwara Y., Hashimoto J. (2001) Molecular taxonomy of vestimentiferans of the western Pacific and their phylogenetic relationship to species of the eastern Pacific. I. Family Lamellibrachiidae. Marine Biology 139, 211–219.
CrossRef |

Kushida T., Iijima H., Kushida H., Tsuruta C. (1988) An improved embedding method employing epoxy resin Quetol 651 for stereoscopic observation of thick sections under a 300 kV transmission electron microscope. Journal of Electron Microscopy 37, 212–214.
PubMed |

Muirhead A., Tyler P. A., Thurston M. H. (1986) Reproductive biology and growth of the genus Epizoanthus (Zoanthidea) from the north-east Atlantic. Journal of the Marine Biology Association of the United Kingdom 66, 131–143.

Ono S., Reimer J. D., Tsukahara J. (2005) Reproduction of Zoanthus sansibaricus in the infra-littoral zone at Taisho Lava Field, Sakurajima, Kagoshima, Japan. Zoological Science 22, 247–255.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Posada D., Crandall K. A. (1998) MODELTEST: testing the model of DNA substitution. Bioinformatics 14, 817–818.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Reimer J. D., Ono S., Iwama A., Tsukahara J., Takishita K., Maruyama T. (2006a) Morphological and molecular revision of Zoanthus (Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) from southwestern Japan with description of two new species. Zoological Science 23, 261–275.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Reimer J. D., Ono S., Fujiwara Y., Takishita K., Tsukahara J. (2004) Reconsidering Zoanthus spp. diversity: molecular evidence of conspecificity within four previously presumed species. Zoological Science 21, 517–525.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Reimer J. D., Ono S., Takishita K., Tsukahara J., Maruyama T. (2006b) Molecular evidence suggesting species in the zoanthid genera Palythoa and Protopalythoa (Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) are congeneric. Zoological Science 23, 87–94.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Ronquist F., Huelsenbeck J. P. (2003) Bayesian phylogenetic inference under mixed models. Bioinformatics 19, 1572–1574.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Ryland J. S., de Putron S., Scheltema R. S., Chimonides P. J., Zhadan D. G. (2000) Semper’s (zoanthid) larvae: pelagic life, parentage and other problems. Hydrobiologia 440, 191–198.
CrossRef |

Saitou N., Nei M. (1987) The neighbor-joining method: a new method for reconstructing phylogenetic trees. Molecular Biology and Evolution 4, 406–425.
PubMed |

Sinniger F., Montoya-Burgess J. I., Chevaldonne P., Pawlowski J. (2005) Phylogeny of the order Zoantharia (Anthozoa, Hexacorallia) based on mitochondrial ribosomal genes. Marine Biology 147, 1121–1128.
CrossRef |

Swofford D. L. (1998). ‘PAUP*. V Phylogenetic analysis using parsimony (*and other methods), version 4.’ (Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MA.)

Takizawa S., Kawata T., Ohno T. (1995) A method of fixation and freeze drying of soft sediments containing water. Journal of the Geological Society of Japan [in Japanese] 101, 941–944.

Thompson J. D., Gibson T. J., Plewniak F., Jeanmougin F., Higgins D. G. (1997) The ClustalX windows interface: flexible strategies for multiple sequence alignment aided by quality analysis tools. Nucleic Acids Research 25, 4876–4882.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Uchida H. (2001). ‘Sea Anemones in Japanese Waters.’ (TBS Britannica: Tokyo.) [in Japanese.]

van Oppen M. J. H., Catmull J., McDonald B. J., Hislop N. R., Hagerman P. J., Miller D. J. (2002) The mitochondrial genome of Acropora tenuis (Cnidaria; Scleractinia) contains a large group I intron and a candidate control region. Journal of Molecular Evolution 55, 1–13.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Supplementary MaterialSupplementary Material (4 KB) Export Citation Cited By (39)