Cophylogenetic analysis of the relationship between anemonefish Amphiprion (Perciformes: Pomacentridae) and their symbiotic host anemones (Anthozoa: Actiniaria)

The association between anemonefish and anemone is a classical example of mutualism in coral reefs. Although mutualism is probably the key innovation that triggered the adaptive radiation of anemonefish into a wide range of habitats, the coevolutionary history between the groups has not been thoroughly tested in a phylogenetic framework. We examined the evolutionary history of the association via distance-based (Parafit and PACo) and event-based methods (Core-PA, Jane). Mitochondrial DNA sequences (COI mtDNA, Cytb, 16S rDNA and 12S rDNA) were used to reconstruct the phylogenies of tropical Amphiprion species and their host anemones by using maximum likelihood with best-fit models selected. Neither distance-based analyses nor event-based analyses revealed global significant congruence between the phylogenies of the hosts and the symbionts, and thus no evidence for coevolution between anemone-anemonefish. However, at the individual pair level, the fish showed some dependence on anemone hosts. Even though living in close association and benefiting from each other, the change of genetic composition of one species (anemonefish) does not always evolve in response to changes in the other (anemones). These findings expand our understanding of the pattern and the role of evolutionary events to allow a better prediction of the future of the anemonefish-anemone relationship.