Three-Dimensional Landmark Techniques for the Recognition of Reef Coral Species

  • Kenneth G. Johnson
  • Ann F. Budd
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 284)


In the past, the taxonomy of reef corals has suffered from a lack of reliable quantitative techniques for defining and classifying species. In an attempt to develop a useful protocol for recognizing morphospecies, we used a set of 20 three-dimensional landmarks to test for morphological differences among populations of the common Caribbean reef coral Porites from Belize, Miami and St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands). Based on molecular techniques, tissue samples from the same collections have been shown to be distinct within collection sites. Generalized Least-Squares (GLS) analysis was used to align the sets of landmarks, and the principal coordinates of GLS residuals were examined to determine modes of variation among the landmarks. Group distinctiveness was examined using principal components analysis of mean residuals. We were able to distinguish four morphological groups that suggest a taxonomy corresponding to local field names. Collections of P. porites from Belize, Miami and St. Croix show considerable overlap, but collections of P. divaricata from Miami are morphologically distinct from corals assigned to P. divaricata in St. Croix. A collection P. ?furcata from St. Croix could be reliably distinguished. Analysis of the distribution of corallite size supports these results. Although both the morphological and molecular data suggest similar species groupings, neither yields unambiguous classification results at this point, and new measurement and analytical techniques are required to incorporate colony-level information into the quantitative definition of reef coral species.


Skeletal Element Centroid Size Relative Elevation Collection Group Palar Ring 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth G. Johnson
    • 1
  • Ann F. Budd
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geology and Applied GeologyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Geology DepartmentUniversity of IowaIowa CityIowaUSA

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