Morphological and molecular variability of the sea anemone Phymanthus crucifer (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Actiniaria, Actinoidea)
The shallow water sea anemone Phymanthus crucifer exhibits three distinct morphotypes, characterized by the presence or absence of protuberances on the marginal tentacles, as well as intermediate forms. The taxonomic status of the different morphotypes and the diagnostic value of protuberances on the tentacles have been debated for this species and the family Phymanthidae.
We analysed the external and internal anatomy, cnidae and three mitochondrial molecular markers for representatives of each of the three morphotypes. In addition, we address the putative monophyly of the family Phymanthidae based on molecular data. With the exception of the protuberances, our morphological and molecular results show no differences among the three morphotypes; thus, we consider this feature to be intraspecific variability within P. crucifer.
Furthermore, molecular data reveal that the family Phymanthidae is not monophyletic. In addition, we discuss several diagnostic morphological features of the family Phymanthidae.