sibling species

Dave Meyer at
Thu May 30 04:52:00 EDT 1996

<Osha Gray Davidson asked about cases of sibling species on reefs... 

    Although I regard the quintessential example of sibling spp on coral 
reefs to be the case of Montastrea "annularis" reported by Knowlton, I 
believe there are examples among the reef-dwelling comatulid crinoids with 
which I am familiar. For example, taxonomic revisions carried out by Rowe et 
al. in 1986 (Zool. J. Linn. Soc., vol. 86:197-277) resulted in the common 
Western Pacific comatulid Comanthus parvicirrus being split so that four new 
species (at least) were separated out of C. parvicirrus, in addition to that 
sp remaining valid.  Previously these had been lumped under this taxon which 
was considered highly variable in some characters.  The new characters 
employed by Rowe et al. enable much of this variation to be understood as 
previously "hidden" species.  They remain very similar so that it takes a 
skilled specialist to distinguish them, but the differences are there. There 
are two other cases among reef comatulids that are waiting to be published, 
one from the Pacific and another from the Caribbean in which there is very 
close morphological similarity between what I strongly suspect are distinct 
taxa.  The more I learn of how widespread these cases are, the more I 
realize how much I need to get to work to settle these crinoid problems!  
For those of us who worry about species recognition in the fossil record, 
these cases are mighty sobering!!  With best wishes, Dave Meyer 

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