Molecular Insights Into the Ctenophore Genus Beroe in Europe: New Species, Spreading Invaders

J Hered. 2018 Jun 27;109(5):520-529. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esy026.


The genus Beroe Browne, 1756 (Ctenophora, Beroidae) occurs worldwide, with 25 currently-described species. Because the genus is poorly studied, the definitive number of species is uncertain. Recently, a possible new Beroe species was suggested based on internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) sequences from samples collected in Svalbard, Norway. Another species, Beroe ovata, was introduced to Europe from North America, initially in the Black Sea and subsequently (and possibly secondarily) into the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. In areas where ctenophores have been introduced, they have often had significant detrimental ecological effects. The potential for other cryptic and/or undescribed Beroe species and history of spread of some species in the genus give reason for additional study. When alive, morphological hallmarks may be challenging to spot and photograph owing to the animals' transparency and near-constant motion. We sampled and analyzed 109 putative Beroe specimens from Europe, using morphological and molecular approaches. DNA analyses were conducted using cytochrome oxidase 1 and internal transcribed spacer sequences and, together with published sequences from GenBank, phylogenetic relationships of the genus were explored. Our study suggests the presence of at least 5 genetic lineages of Beroe in Europe, of which 3 could be assigned to known species: Beroe gracilis Künne 1939; Beroe cucumis Fabricius, 1780; and Beroe ovata sensu Mayer, 1912. The other 2 lineages (here provisionally named Beroe "norvegica" and Beroe "anatoliensis") did not clearly coincide with any known species and might therefore reflect new species, but confirmation of this requires further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ctenophora / classification
  • Ctenophora / genetics*
  • Europe
  • Introduced Species*
  • Phylogeography
  • Species Specificity