Abstract

We used up to 28 morphological characters to discriminate and describe species of the genus Cupuladria based on entire colony specimens collected from both coasts of the Isthmus of Panama. The characters included a combination of zooidal features traditionally used in cheilostome taxonomy and nontraditional characters such as colony size, shape, and an index of calcification of the colony, as well as the size of the basal sectors and their number of pores. Species were discriminated by a series of repeated multivariate cluster and discriminant analyses until the majority of specimens were assigned to their putative species with high statistical confidence. Nontraditional characters contributed significantly to the power of the analyses. Colonies fell into two highly distinct groups most clearly recognized by the presence or absence of vicarious avicularia, which agrees well with previous molecular genetic analyses. Further analyses of each of these two groups considered separately resulted in the discrimination of eight species. These include two previously described Caribbean species, C. biporosaCanu and Bassler, 1919 and C. surinamensisCadée, 1975, and six new species: C. multesima, C. incognita, C. cheethami, and C. panamensis from the Caribbean, and C. pacificiensis and C. exfragminis from the eastern Pacific. There was also good correspondence between major clades within these morphologically defined groups and the previous molecular analysis, although 20% of the specimens could not be distinguished from their cognate (“geminate”) species from the opposite ocean. The high ratio of undescribed to described species and higher diversity in the Caribbean than eastern Pacific agree well with newly described patterns from other cheilostome genera based on similar analyses. Quantitative morphometric studies are essential to study biologically meaningful patterns of cheilostome speciation and macroevolution in the fossil record.

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