Abdul Wahab, M.; Fromont, J.; Whalan, S.; Webster, N.; Andreakis, N. (2014). Combining morphometrics with molecular taxonomy: How different are similar foliose keratose sponges from the Australian tropics?. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 73, 23-39.
Sponge taxonomy can be challenging as many groups exhibit extreme morphological plasticity induced by local environmental conditions. Foliose keratose sponges of the sub-family Phyllospongiinae (Dictyoceratida, Thorectidae: Strepsichordaia, Phyllospongia and Carteriospongia) are commonly found in intertidal and subtidal habitats of the Indo-Pacific. Lacking spicules, these sponges can be difficult to differentiate due to the lack of reliable morphological characters for species delineation. We use molecular phylogenies inferred from the nuclear Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 region (ITS2) and morphometrics (19
characters; 52 character states) to identify evolutionarily significant units (ESUs; sensu Moritz) within foliose Phyllosponginiids collected from seven geographic locations across tropical eastern and Western Australia. The ITS2 topology was congruent with the tree derived from Bayesian inference of discrete morphological characters supporting expected taxonomic relationships at the genus level and the identification of five ESUs. However, phylogenies inferred from the ITS2 marker revealed multiple sequence clusters, some of which were characterised by distinct morphological features and specific geographic
ranges. Our results are discussed in light of taxonomic incongruences within this study, hidden sponge diversity and the role of vicariant events in influencing present day distribution patterns.