First Record of the Indo-Pacific Reef Coral Genus Isopora in the Caribbean Region: Two New Species from the Neogene of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles

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The coral genus Isopora, a sister group of the modern dominant Acropora until now only known from the Pliocene to Recent of the Indo-Pacific, is recorded in the Caribbean for the first time. Two new species, Isopora ginsburgi and Isopora curacaoensis, are described from the Neogene Seroe Domi Formation of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Study of large collections made systematically through the sequence indicates that Isopora first occurred in the Caribbean during the Mio-Pliocene, at approximately the same time as the origination of many modern Caribbean reef coral dominants including Acropora cervicornis. It last occurred in the region during the late Pliocene as part of a pulse of extinction, in which several genera that live today in the Indo-Pacific became extinct in the Caribbean. Throughout its Caribbean duration, Isopora co-occurred with the two abundant modern Caribbean species of Acropora, A. cervicornis and A. palmata. Comparisons with Neogene collections made elsewhere in the Caribbean indicate that Isopora was restricted in distribution to the southern Caribbean. Isopora species are viviparous, while Acropora are oviparous, and this difference in reproductive strategy may have played a role in the extinction of Isopora in the Caribbean. The occurrences of Isopora reported in this study are the oldest records to date of Isopora worldwide, and are important for understanding the biogeographic separation between reef coral faunas in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific regions.

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Palaeontology, 51 (2008) pp.1387-1401.

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