Integrative taxonomy reveals cryptic species within Sabellastarte Krøyer, 1856 (Sabellidae: Annelida) and establishes the systematics of the genus
Sabellastarte Krøyer, 1856 (Sabellidae), a morphologically homogeneous group distributed in warm and temperate coasts of the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean Sea, is characterized by the presence of a unique combination of features. To date, the genus comprises eight species, but morphological characters traditionally used in diagnostics have shown intra-specific variability, making species boundaries and distributions unclear. The present study constitutes the first attempt to test the monophyly of Sabellastarte and its relationships to other sabellid genera by combining molecular (COI and 16S) and morphological data. Results include placement of a clade containing Stylomma, Sabella, Branchiomma and Bispira as the sister group to Sabellastarte. Phylogenetic analyses and genetic divergence among specimens from several localities around the world indicate the presence of at least six lineages within Sabellastarte. In the context of a discussion of species boundaries and diagnostic features, the distribution of some of those lineages can be explained by the presence of cryptic species and potential introductions.