A bridge too far: dispersal barriers and cryptic speciation in an Arabian Peninsula grouper (Cephalopholis hemistiktos)

Mark Priest, Joseph DiBattista, Jennifer L. McIlwain, Brett M. Taylor, Nigel E. Hussey, Michael L. Berumen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Aim: We use genetic and age-based analyses to assess the evidence for a biogeographical barrier to larval dispersal in the yellowfin hind, Cephalopholis hemistiktos, a commercially important species found across the Arabian Peninsula. Location: Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf. Methods: Mitochondrial DNA cytochrome-c oxidase subunit-I and nuclear DNA (S7) sequences were obtained for C. hemistiktos sampled throughout its distributional range. Phylogeographical and population-level analyses were used to assess patterns of genetic structure and to identify barriers to dispersal. Concurrently, age-based demographic analyses using otoliths determined differences in growth and longevity between regions. Results: Our analyses revealed significant genetic structure congruent with growth parameter differences observed across sampling sites, suggesting cryptic speciation between populations in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden versus the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf. Coalescence analyses indicated these two regions have been isolated for > 800,000 years. Main conclusions: Our results indicate historical disruption to gene flow and a contemporary dispersal barrier in the Arabian Sea, which C. hemistiktos larvae are unable to effectively traverse. This provides yet another example of a (cryptic) species with high dispersive potential whose range is delimited by a lack of suitable habitat between locations or an inability to successfully recruit at the range edge. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-832
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 12 2015

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): CRG-1-2012-BER-002
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Office of Competitive Research Funds under award No. CRG-1-2012-BER-002 and baseline research funds to M.L.B., as well as National Geographic Society Grant 9024-11 to J.D.D. For support during sample collection trips we thank the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab, Amr Gusti, and Eric Mason at Dream Diver in KSA; the crew of the M/V Deli in Djibouti; the Wildlife Conservation General Administration of Sudan, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Oman, including Abdul Kareem; the Red Sea State Government and The Red Sea University in Port Sudan, as well as Equipe Cousteau support for the Sudan Shark and Ray Conservation and Management Program including Steven Kessel, Claudio Scarpellini and Mohammed Younis. We are grateful to a crack team of sharpshooters for help with fish collections, including: Brian Bowen, Camrin Braun, Howard Choat, Richard Coleman, JP Hobbs, Gerrit Nanninga, Luiz Rocha, Tane Sinclair-Taylor and members of the Reef Ecology Lab at KAUST. Finally, we thank the KAUST Bioscience Core Laboratory for assistance with DNA sequencing.


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