Phylogeny of Octocoral family Xeniidae: Application of molecular and morphology based approaches

The family Xeniidae (Octocorallia) constitutes an abundant benthic component of many Indo-West Pacific coral reef communities and is dominant in the Red Sea. Recent taxonomic revisions based on morphological characters leave the status of several xeniid taxa unresolved. The current study intends to construct a molecular phylogeny based on both mtDNA and nDNA markers, in order to determine whether the currently defined genera represent monophyletic groups. The study will combine molecular analysis with a re-examination of xeniid type material, using high-resolution scanning electron microscopy. A detailed phylogeny of the xeniid taxa will elucidate the morphological characters that are diagnostic for the genetically monophyletic clades, and will facilitate a taxonomic revision of the family.