Scleractinian corals are widely distributed in all oceans and at all bathymetric levels. Corals are among the most important bio-building organisms in marine ecosystems. The systematics of this hexacoral group is currently undergoing much change owing to studies that combine molecular analyses with morphological research on the calcareous skeletons. However, information from polyp anatomy has been widely ignored, and some aspects, such as the diversity and distribution of the cnidocysts, might help to obtain a better understanding of the relationships at different taxonomic levels. In this study, the cnidocysts of four species of the family Dendrophylliidae (Dendrophyllia ramea, D. cornigera, D. laboreli and Astroides calycularis) are analysed to evaluate the application of cnidae in phylogenetic analyses, and to complete our knowledge of cnidae composition (types, distribution and sizes) for these species. A discriminant analysis based on the cnidae of these species supports the usefulness of these structures. The obtained results indicate that additional morphological characters in scleractinian corals that may help to clarify their phylogenetic relationships can still be found.
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Vol. 28 • No. 2