Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 September 2015
The Indonesian archipelago is a ‘hotspot’ for invertebrate biodiversity (‘Coral Triangle’). In this area of ‘peak’ biodiversity, the origins of this high species diversity have often been debated. Xestospongia testudinaria is one of the sponge species that dominates coral reef sponge communities in this region. The role of the so-called ‘giant barrel sponge’ for the reef ecosystem has been studied repeatedly, as have its various bioactive compounds. However, the genetic variation of this iconic sponge in the region remains unknown. We investigate over 200 barrel sponge samples from Indonesia, and neighbouring as well as more distant localities (Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Thailand, Taiwan, Java, Sulawesi and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia) using the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1. We compare our results with those from the studies on the congeneric barrel sponges Xestospongia muta from the Caribbean, and Xestospongia bergquistia from the Indo-Pacific, and observe a high degree of overlapping haplotypes between the three barrel sponge species, likely indicating the presence of ancestral polymorphisms. We discuss the implications of these findings to better interpret the phylogeography of barrel sponge taxa in the Indo-Pacific.