The genus Astreopora is a small but ancestral group in Acroporidae, which is one of the most diverse and dominant families of scleractinian coral in Indo-Pacific reefs. We estimated the species boundaries of Astreopora corals using two molecular markers: a mitochondrial non-coding region and a nuclear ribosomal 5.8S region. Seven species (59 specimens) commonly observed around Japan (Astreopora expansa, A. gracilis, A. incrustans, A. listeri, A. myriophthalma, A. cf. suggesta, and Astreopora sp.1) were investigated, and we observed no genetic divergence in the mitochondrial marker, suggesting that these species are closely related, consistent with a species complex or recent divergence, although genotyping by the marker is not so sensitive. In the nuclear 5.8S region, 121 clones consisted of six species were divided into the four major genetic groups. Although there were no monophyletic clades, the two dominant species A. myriophthalma and A. gracilis rarely shared the same haplotypes, suggesting that gene flow is limited between them. However, A. incrustans frequently shared the same haplotypes with A. gracilis although the distributions do not overlap. We found that the ancestral genus Astreopora in Acroporidae shows less genetic variation than traditionally identified morphospecies. Although further research on fertilization rate among these species is required to determine if there are reproductive barriers, the low level of genetic diversification in this genus hints that some ecological differences among acroporid corals play a role in the evolution of scleractinian corals, considering that the other members of this family, Acropora and Montipora, are highly diversified.
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Vol. 30 • No. 8