Zoantharia of St. Eustatius
Research on the order Zoantharia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) has a long history in the Caribbean Sea, with the first species, Zoanthus sociatus, described by Ellis & Solander (1768). Since then, the majority of worldwide zoantharian research has occurred in the Caribbean, and the fauna and species are generally thought to be well-known. However, over the past 20 years, molecular techniques have brought about a reconsideration of many marine species and their taxonomy, and the Zoantharia are no exception. Despite many species, genera, and family having been described recently, most discoveries have been from the Indo-Pacific, and thus a reconsideration of zoantharian species combined with faunal surveys in the Caribbean is timely. Additionally, recent Indo-Pacific work has shown that surveys in areas of coral reefs not normally examined (e.g. rubble zones, caves and cracks, sand) as well as at depths below the normal recreational range of SCUBA (> 30 m) harbor much unexamined diversity. During this survey around St. Eustatius, we focused on these areas as well as “normal” coral reef habitats (slopes, crests).
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