Invertebrate Systematics Invertebrate Systematics Society
Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

Using morphometrics, in situ observations and genetic characters to distinguish among commercially valuable Hawaiian black coral species; a redescription of Antipathes grandis Verrill, 1928 (Antipatharia : Antipathidae)

Daniel Wagner A B F , Mercer R. Brugler C , Dennis M. Opresko D , Scott C. France C , Anthony D. Montgomery E and Robert J. Toonen B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of Hawai ’i at Mānoa, Department of Oceanography, 1000 Pope Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.

B Hawai ’i Institute of Marine Biology, 46-007 Lilipuna Road, Kāne ’ohe, HI 96744, USA.

C University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Department of Biology, P.O. Box 42451, Lafayette, LA 70504, USA.

D Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1060 Commence Park, Oak Ridge, TN 37830, USA.

E State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Invertebrate Systematics 24(3) 271-290
Submitted: 9 February 2010  Accepted: 8 July 2010   Published: 30 August 2010


The commercially valuable Hawaiian black coral Antipathes grandis Verrill, 1928 is redescribed based on reexamination of the holotype from the Bernice P. Bishop Museum and field collections of 34 specimens from depths of 27–127 m. The first scanning electron micrographs of A. grandis skeletal spines are provided, along with a series of in situ colour photographs and morphometric measurements of spines and polyps. Three colour morphotypes were collected in the field (red, pale red, and white), none of which could be differentiated based on morphological or genetic characters (two mitochondrial and two nuclear markers). In situ observations are used in conjunction with morphological and genetic characters to distinguish among the commercially valuable Hawaiian black coral species A. grandis and A. griggi Opresko, 2009. A. grandis is differentiated from A. griggi by its finer and more irregular branching, smaller and more closely-spaced polyps, and conical spines that are smaller and not characterised by bifurcations towards their apex. Morphologically, the species most closely resembling A. grandis is A. caribbeana Opresko, 1996 from the Caribbean. Among analysed congenerics, DNA sequences of A. grandis were likewise most similar to those of A. caribbeana for three of the four molecular markers used in this study. A combination of low genetic variability, incomplete taxonomic sampling, and unexpected similarity between A. caribbeana and the unbranched whip coral Stichopathes cf. occidentalis (Gray, 1860), hindered our ability to determine the sister relationship of A. grandis. However, in no phylogenetic reconstruction did A. grandis group sister to its sympatric congener A. griggi.

Additional keywords: COI barcode, internal transcribed spacer, mitochondrial intergenic region, precious coral, scanning electron microscopy, taxonomy.


All material was collected under the appropriate collection permits of the State of Hawai ’i and the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS-2004–001). We thank Holly Bolick and Lu Eldredge for help in accessing and studying type material at the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Help in the field was provided by Linda Marsh, Scott Reed, Joe Heacock, Jason Leonard, Yannis Papastamatiou, Jeff Eble and Samuel Kahng. The captain and crew of R/V Kaimikai-o-Kanaloa provided surface support for all submersible operations and pilots Terry Kirby and Max Cremer provided superb skills in operating the submersibles. We also thank George Sedberry for donating specimens collected on the NOAA-OE funded  ’Estuary to the Abyss ’ cruise. Special thanks to Rhian Waller and Richard Grigg for providing laboratory space and guidance. Additional help in the laboratory was provided by Tina Carvalho, Scott Whitacker, Elizabeth Bates and Lance Renoux. This paper is a result of research funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Ocean Program under award NA07NOS4780189 to the State of Hawai ’i/Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR); submersible support provided by NOAA Undersea Research Program ’s Hawai ’i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL); and funding from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program research grants program administered by HURL under award NA05OAR4301108, project number HC07–11. Funding was also provided by NOAA ’s Fisheries Disaster Relief Program under award number NA03NMF4520452 to the State of Hawai ’i/DLNR, and the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council to the University of Hawai ’i through the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Grant Program under award number NA07NMF4410114. Additional funding and support was provided by the State of Hawai ’i/DLNR and the State of Louisiana Board of Regents Support Fund Fellowship (contract # LEQSF(2004–09)-GF-21). This is HIMB contribution 1393 and SOEST 7981.


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