Species richness in the seas has been underestimated due to the combined challenges presented by the taxonomic impediment, delimitation of species, preponderance of cryptic species, and uneven sampling effort. The mismatch between actual and estimated diversity varies by region and by taxon, leaving open questions such as: are hotspots for well-known taxa also hotspots for poorly known taxa? We address these challenges and this question for shallow-water scyphozoan jellyfishes in the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP). We increased sampling effort at 34 coastal locations along the TEP, and combined analyses of four molecular markers and up to 53 morphological characters. We applied phylogenetic analyses under Bayesian and maximum likelihood frameworks, barcoding, and statistical multivariate analyses of morphological data to estimate species richness. Where only five Discomedusae were reported previously, we found a total of 25 species. Of these, 22 species are new to science, two are non-indigenous, and one is a previous record; the other four prior records had been misidentified. The new discoveries evince the need to evaluate the evolutionary relationships with neighbouring regions to understand fully the origins of jellyfish diversity in the TEP and will lead to revision of the systematics and taxonomy of Scyphozoa.
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Vol. 31 • No. 5