Evidence of host-associated divergence from coral-eating snails (genus Coralliophila) in the Coral Triangle

Sara E. Simmonds, Vincent Chou, Samantha H. Cheng, Rita Rachmawati, Hilconida P. Calumpong, G. Ngurah Mahardika, Paul H. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We studied how host-associations and geography shape the genetic structure of sister species of marine snails Coralliophila radula (A. Adams, 1853) and C. violacea (Kiener, 1836). These obligate ectoparasites prey upon corals and are sympatric throughout much of their ranges in coral reefs of the tropical and subtropical Indo-Pacific. We tested for population genetic structure of snails in relation to geography and their host corals using mtDNA (COI) sequences in minimum spanning trees and AMOVAs. We also examined the evolutionary relationships of their Porites host coral species using maximum likelihood trees of RAD-seq (restriction site-associated DNA sequencing) loci mapped to a reference transcriptome. A maximum likelihood tree of host corals revealed three distinct clades. Coralliophila radula showed a pronounced genetic break across the Sunda Shelf (ΦCT = 0.735) but exhibited no genetic structure with respect to host. C. violacea exhibited significant geographic structure (ΦCT = 0.427), with divergence among Hawaiian populations, the Coral Triangle and the Indian Ocean. Notably, C. violacea showed evidence of ecological divergence; two lineages were associated with different groups of host coral species, one widespread found at all sites, and the other restricted to the Coral Triangle. Sympatric populations of C. violacea found on different suites of coral species were highly divergent (ΦCT = 0.561, d = 5.13%), suggesting that symbiotic relationships may contribute to lineage diversification in the Coral Triangle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-371
Number of pages17
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Marine gastropod
  • Parasite
  • Porites
  • RAD-seq
  • Sister species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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