Contributions to Zoology, 86 (2) – 2017Gerrit Potkamp; Mark J.A. Vermeij; Bert W. Hoeksema: Genetic and morphological variation in corallivorous snails (Coralliophila spp.) living on different host corals at Curaçao, southern Caribbean

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Abstract

Snails of the genus Coralliophila (Muricidae: Coralliophilinae) are common corallivores in the Caribbean, feeding on a wide range of host species. In the present study, the morphological and genetic variation in C. galea and C. caribaea were studied in relation to their association with host coral species at Curaçao. Differences in shell shape among snails living on different hosts were quantified using geometric morphometric and phylogenetic relationships were studied using two mitochondrial markers (12S and COI). Based on these analyses, a new species, C. curacaoensis sp. nov., was found in association with the scleractinian coral Madracis auretenra. Both C. galea and C. caribaea showed host-specific differences in shell shape, size, and shell allometry (i.e. changes in morphological development during growth). Shell spire variability contributed foremost to the overall variation in shell shape. In C. caribaea minor genetic differences existed between snails associated with scleractinian and alcyonacean corals, whereas in C. galea such intraspecific variation was not found. These results shed more light on morphological and genetic differences among coral-associated fauna living on different host species.