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Aphanipathidae   Family


Original Description
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Original Description
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Aphanipathidae fam. nov.

Diagnosis.— Polyps subequal or slightly elongated in either the transverse or sagittal axis; mostly 0.7-1.3 mm in transverse diameter. Tentacles of polyps short, blunt, subequal; maximum length generally less than the transverse diameter of the polyp. Spines conical to acicular to cylindrical; acute or blunt; usually with conical

tubercles on surface, sometimes smooth; maximum height of polypar spines usually more than two times width at base; polypar spines distinctly larger than abpolypar spines; polypar spines either subequal, or with circumpolypar spines slightly to significantly taller than other polypar spines; hypostomal spines similar in size to circumpolypar spines, greatly reduced, or absent. Corallum irregularly bushy or flabellate. Stem and branches simple or pinnulate. Pinnules, when present, usually without subpinnules (rarely with randomly occurring simple secondary pinnules).

Remarks.— This family is based on the genus Aphanipathes which was established by Brook (1889) for species having small, inconspicuous polyps "often obscured by the elongate spines which project through the peristome of many species, in spirit specimens" (Brook, 1889: 121). It is the feature of the spines projecting through the soft tissue that was used as the diagnostic character of Aphanipathes in the past. In defining

the new family Aphanipathidae, it is the morphology of the polyps and the relative size and shape of the spines that are considered the characteristic features of the family. Based on descriptions given in the literature and on observations made on preserved and living material (see fig. 1c), the polyps in the Aphanipathidae appear to have tentacles that are shorter, blunter, and more uniform in size than those in the Antipathidae, sensu stricto. In this regard they resemble polyps of the Myriopathidae (see Opresko, 2001). Further observations on living material are needed to verify this supposition. In the Aphanipathidae, the spines are conical to cylindrical, usually covered with small conical tubercles to some degree (smooth in some species); however, they are not notched, bifurcated or multiply lobed at the apex as they are in many species in the Antipathidae.

Not included here in the family Aphanipathidae are several species of Stichopathes [e.g., S. spiessi Opresko & Genin, 1990, and S. paucispina (Brook, 1889)], and species of Allopathes Opresko & Cairns, 1994, which have tuberculate spines that are superficially similar to those found in the Aphanipathidae. There is some evidence, although based on preserved material, that the polyps of these species have unequal tentacles, with the sagittal tentacles longer than the lateral tentacles. This condition is more typical of the Antipathidae.

Also excluded from the Aphanipathidae are species of Stichopathes (e.g., S. lutkeni Brook, 1889) and Antipathes (e.g., A. caribbeana Opresko, 1996) which have very papillose spines. Although the papillae on these spines can somewhat resemble tubercles (see Opresko, 1996), they are generally more numerous and more irregular in shape than those in Aphanipathidae. Finely papillose spines are not uncommon in some species

of Antipathes. In addition, based on the photographs of living colonies, the polyps of these species tend to have elongate sagittal tentacles and are therefore more similar to those of the Antipathidae than the Aphanipathidae.

As defined here, the family Aphanipathidae is divided into two subfamilies, the Aphanipathinae and the Acanthopathinae, based on the relative development of the polypar spines.”

(Opresko, 2004)